Licensed Practical Nurses provide basic nursing care and work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors. They work in nursing homes, extended care facilities, hospitals, physicians’ offices and in private homes under the supervision of physicians or registered nurses. LPNs help patients with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, eating and toileting. They dress wounds, install catheters, monitor equipment, check vital signs, deliver medications and much more. While basic, their responsibilities are absolutely imperative to the quality of care. Among all care givers they have the most intimate hands-on relationship with their patients.
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses must complete a state-approved practical nursing program, which typically takes about one year to complete. They also must pass a licensing exam following their LPN training.
The ideal LPN is a natural at building relationships. They are empathetic, trusting, flexible, good listeners and energetic. Most LPNs struggle initially with elements of the job such as toileting or exposure to blood, but the satisfaction derived from their patient relationships quickly mitigates those issues. Cambridge’s practical nursing programs prepare students to successfully handle all these tasks in all kinds of work settings.
Duties of LPNs vary, depending on their work setting and the state in which they work. For example, they might reinforce teaching done by registered nurses regarding how family members should care for a relative; help to deliver, care for and feed infants; collect samples for testing and do routine laboratory tests; or feed patients who need help eating.
LPNs might be limited to doing certain tasks depending on the state where they work. For example, in some states, LPNs with proper training can give medication or start intravenous drips, but in other states they cannot perform these tasks.
How does it feel to be a practical nurse?
While the proximity to patient’s body functions and often-serious health issues may seem unpleasant, LPNs find the impact they have on patients’ lives to be extraordinarily rewarding. They often become the closest companions and confidants to their patients and their families. LPNs are part of a very caring community, which includes not only physicians and nurses, but rehabilitation and social therapists as well as aids and administrators.
LPNs demand will be needed in residential care facilities and in home health environments to care for older patients. The career path for LPNs is varied. Many return to school for an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree and become Registered Nurses. Registered Nurses supervise LPNs, administer medications, perform diagnostic tests, record patient histories and symptoms, manage patients’ care plans, and consult more extensively with physicians. LPNs might also move into administrative roles in health care settings. Many experienced LPNs go into nursing education. Another option is to continue on after attaining a bachelor’s degree and earn a master’s in nursing. At that point, many go on to become nurse practitioners who see their own patients without supervision from a physician.
To enter the profession, one must attend and satisfy the requirements of a 9-13-month program and take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical nurses.
LPN is ranked #41 of the 100 Best Jobs by the US News and World Report.