What does a Practical Nurse do?

Learn all about Practical Nurse duties, skills and much more. Get expert advice on how to become a Practical Nurse.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 3 min read

A practical nurse is a type of nurse that helps patients with their daily activities. They may help patients with bathing, dressing, and eating. They may also take vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature.

Practical Nurse job duties include:

  • Assist patients with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and eating.
  • Take and record patients’ vital signs, such as blood pressure, temperature, and pulse.
  • Administer medications and injections prescribed by a physician.
  • Change dressings on wounds or incisions.
  • Monitor patients for changes in their condition.
  • Collaborate with physicians and other healthcare professionals to plan care for patients.
  • Educate patients and their families about health conditions and treatments.
  • Provide emotional support to patients and their families.
  • Keep accurate medical records.

Practical Nurse Job Requirements

Practical Nurses (PNs) provide care to patients in a variety of settings. Most PNs have an Associate’s degree in Nursing, although some may have a diploma or Bachelor’s degree. All PNs must be licensed by the state in which they practice. In addition to formal education, PNs must complete a period of clinical training in order to gain experience in providing patient care.

Practical Nurse Skills

  • Assessing patients
  • Planning and providing nursing care
  • Monitoring and recording patients' vital signs
  • Administering injections and medications
  • Performing wound care
  • Providing emotional support to patients and families
  • Collaborating with other members of the healthcare team
  • Educating patients and families about health and wellness
  • Maintaining patient confidentiality
  • Using technology to document patient care
  • Adhering to infection control protocols

Related: Top Practical Nurse Skills: Definition and Examples

How to become a Practical Nurse

Practical nurses, also called licensed vocational nurses (LVN) in some states, provide basic nursing care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors. Most practical nurses have completed a 1-year vocational program. Some states require practical nurses to pass a licensing exam before they can practice.

Practical nurses typically do the following:

  • Take patients’ vital signs, such as blood pressure, temperature, and pulse
  • Give injections and start intravenous (IV) fluids
  • Change dressings on wounds and give patients baths
  • Help patients with their activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and eating
  • Keep records of patients’ health histories and care plans

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