UCSF Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care Announces: 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.