The Licensed Practical Nurse Workforce in Long-Term Care

Team: Janet Coffman (UCSF), Timothy Bates (UCSF), Krista Chan (UCSF), and Joanne Spetz (UCSF)

 
Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses (LPNs and LVNs) are the second-largest health care occupation that requires postsecondary education, with about 611,710 people employed in the US. LPNs play a vital role in the delivery of long-term care services. The largest share of LPNs is employed in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, with more than one-third of LPNs working in that setting. Many LPNs also provide long-term care services in home health care, continuing care retirement communities, and assisted living facilities.
 

This study will examine changes in LPN supply, educational attainment, demographics, geographic distribution, and employment settings over the past decade. Characteristics of LPNs employed in long-term care settings will be compared with characteristics of LPNs working in other health care settings.

 

Poster

Trends in the Licensed Practical Nurse Workforce from 2008 to 2013

See the poster in our Publications

 

Reports

Profile of the Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse Workforce, 2008 and 2013

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), called licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) in Texas and California, are the second-largest health care occupation requiring postsecondary education. More LPNs work in long-term care than in any other sector, and demand for these workers in the long-term care sector is expected to rise over the next several decades. In Profile of the Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse Workforce, 2008 and 2013, UCSF authors Janet M. Coffman, MPP, PhD, Krista Chan, BA, and Timothy Bates, MPP present the latest national data on LPN employment patterns, and describe trends in employment sites for LPNs as well as changes in the demographic characteristics of these workers. The authors found that the number of LPNs employed by hospitals has decreased significantly while the number employed in long-term care settings has increased. Within the long-term care sector, LPN employment has grown most substantially in home healthcare settings. The authors also report important differences in LPN employment patterns across the U.S. and between metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas.

The authors suggest that growth in demand for LPNs in long-term care settings relative to hospitals has important implications for LPN education, as those who work in long-term care settings have less direct supervision than their counterparts in hospitals. Because LPNs must exercise more independent judgment for patient care, LPN education programs need to ensure that students obtain sufficient clinical training and develop the critical thinking and communications skills necessary to practice effectively in long-term care settings.

For questions, contact: Janet Coffman at Janet.Coffman@ucsf.edu, (415) 476-2435

 

Trends in Licensed Vocational Practical/Licensed Vocational Nurse Education and Licensure Examinations, 1998 to 2013

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), called licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) in Texas and California, are the second-largest healthcare occupation requiring postsecondary education. Due to the aging of the US population, demand for LPNs is projected to rise over the coming decade, especially among long-term care providers. The United States’ ability to meet that demand depends in large part on LPN education programs. In Trends in Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse Education and Licensure Examinations, 1998 to 2013, UCSF authors Janet M. Coffman, MPP, PhD, Krista Chan, BA, and Timothy Bates, MPP update previous studies on trends in LPN education and licensure with the latest available national data. The authors analyzed the trends in numbers and types of LPN educational programs, numbers of persons completing LPN education and their characteristics, and numbers of persons taking and passing the National Council Licensure Examinational-Practical Nurse (NCLEX-RN). This report complements our recent report on trends in LPN employment and demographic characteristics.

The analysis revealed: (1) The numbers of persons completing LPN education programs and passing the LPN licensure examination experienced substantial growth between 1998 and 2011, and then decreased slightly between 2011 and 2013; (2) Much of the growth between 1998 and 2011 is due to the exponential growth in the number of persons completing for-profit LPN education programs; (3) The numbers of African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians completing LPN education programs have grown more rapidly than the number of Whites completing LPN education, but Whites remain the largest percentage of graduates.

The authors conclude that there is a need to monitor trends in LPN education over time to assess whether the supply of LPNs is keeping pace with demand. Ongoing monitoring is critical to determine whether the decrease in completions between 2011 and 2013 is a minor adjustment due to improvements in the US economy, or the start of a long-term downward trend in completions. It is also crucial to monitor tends in for-profit LPN programs, as this sector accounts for a large and growing percentage of completions, especially among non-Whites.