An LPN or licensed practical nurse is a medical professional who is responsible for providing basic bedside care to patients that may be suffering from an injury, illnesses or mental disorder, or patients that have a disability.
In some states an LPN may also be referred to as an LVN or licensed vocational nurse.
As part of their daily responsibilities LPN’s will measure their patients vital signs including height, weight, temperature, blood pressure and heart rate, record/track their patients medical history and report any abnormalities or adverse reactions to their diet, medication or treatment, assist patients with basic daily activities such as getting dressed, bathing, eating, walking, getting in and out of bed and other challenging activities, massage patients who are dealing with physical stress and provide medication via pills or injection.
Aside from providing direct care to patients LPN’s may also collect and secure test samples to gather additional information on the patients health status, care for and attend to the needs of the patients infants/children and advise and educate family members on how to provide basic care to the individual(s) they are assisting.
LPN’s work with a variety of healthcare professionals and may assist nurse assistants, registered nurses and physicians while at work to provide patients with adequate care and attention.
This can include performing many of the same duties mentioned above along with assisting other medical professionals with moving patients, performing separate tasks to speed up patient care and providing additional feedback and observations on a patients medical condition.
What it takes to be a great LPN
Being a great LPN requires more than fulfilling our job responsibilities on a daily basis.
You have to be compassionate and caring, a good listener, able to manage/deal with stress effective, have a lot of patience and be willing to help others who cannot help themselves.
You also have to be able to deal the physical work components of being an LPN.
LPN’s may spend a lot of time walking and standing on their feet, lifting and moving patients, helping them shower and get dressed and feeding patients that are unable to provide basic care to themselves.
As with other healthcare professionals (RN’s, doctors, physicians) LPN’s must also be aware of potential work hazards that can occur when handling a patient or working in an environment where bacteria or diseases are present.
Cleaning patients, handling blood, applying bandages or dressing to open wounds, treating open sores, cleaning bedpans and other forms of interaction must be handled with the utmost care and preparation.
Because LPN’s are responsible for taking care of patients they may be required to work morning, evening and night shifts either by themselves (with a supervisor) or along side other healthcare professionals such as registered nurses.
Just like other positions in healthcare LPN’s may also be required to work on weekends and holidays.
While most LPN’s work regular 40 hour shifts, some will choose to stick to a part-time schedule either due to personal reasons or work requirements/conflicts.
Most individuals that are looking to become LPN’s can obtain their license and begin working as an LPN within 1 – 2 years.
Depending on ones goals students may participate in a 1 year diploma or a 2 year associates program, which they may be able to role into an LPN to RN program later down the road.
Applicants may participate in a qualified LPN through a local accredited college, university or private medical institute.
Prior to being able to participate in the LPN program students must be of age and have earned their Diploma or G.E.D.
Students may also be required to pass certain prerequisite courses such as Chemistry, Anatomy & Physiology, Developmental Psychology, Microbiology and courses in both English and math.
During the LPN program students will learn about basic patient care, how to perform practical medical skills and be introduced to pharmacology.
Once students complete the year long program they must take the NCLEX-PN (National Counsel Licensure Exam for Practical Nurses), which is provided by their state before being certified as an LPN.
Some LPN’s have the opportunity to advance in their career through specialization or leadership roles which can provide nurses with opportunities to perform higher role tasks and earn a higher salary, however their advancement opportunities may be limited by either their work setting or education level.
LPN’s who do move up the career path may choose to specialize in areas such as IV therapy, pharmacology, hospice care, immunization and long-term care.
Those who wish to take in leadership roles may move into positions where they manage/oversee other LPN’s and unlicensed healthcare professionals such as nurse assistants (NA’s).
Because of the scope of healthcare and the important role LPN’s play in patient care they may choose to work in a variety of healthcare settings and positions such as at a hospital, home healthcare center or physician office or in a position such as working as a reserve or travel nurse.
Those interested in making a career change and/or taking on bigger roles with larger responsibilities may choose to go back to school and earn a degree/certification as a registered nurse, technician or other healthcare provider.
Some colleges and universities may offer LPN’s the opportunity to participate in a bridge program which allows LPN’s to make a shift into becoming a registered nurse without requiring them sacrifice additional time by retaking certain classes and/or coursework.
Why LPN’s are important to healthcare
LPN’s serve an important role in the medical field.
They provide patients with medical care and attention, and make it easier for registered nurses, doctors and physicians to do their work without being overloaded with additional responsibilities by managing many of the day to day tasks that patients require in order to lead improved lives.
LPN’s help fill to fill a critical gap that would otherwise leave patients with less medical care, longer wait times and limited oversight.
Because LPN’s are able to provide 24/7 support they have the ability to always keep an eye out for small problems as well as medical emergencies.
They act as the eyes and ears for other medical professionals and help report anything that could be of value to the patients health to their medical provider or overseer.
LPN’s also have the ability to take on supervisor roles where they can manage other LPN’s and unlicensed medical care providers to ensure they are perform their duties effectively and responsibly.
Without LPN’s a large population of individuals would not receive the care they need and registered nurses, doctors and physicians would be pulled away from their work to attend other issues that may arise.
By removing LPN’s from the workforce the healthcare economy as a whole would have a much more difficult time dealing with managing daily tasks and giving each patient/individual the time and attention the need to receive proper care.