Becoming a
Licensed Practical Nurse

A Licensed Practical Nurse, LPN, also known as a Licensed Vocational Nurse, or LVN, provides patient care in a number of different medical-based institutions under the supervision of a doctor or registered nurse. The type and nature of supervision is determined by an individual state that defines the associated job definitions.

Basic Care Provided
Usually, the typical chore that an LPN provides is basic bedside care in a medical facility setting such as a hospital or other care facility. Basic chores can include measuring and recording a patient’s vital signs such as height, weight, temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiration. Often, LPNs are charged with the preparation and delivery of necessary injections and performing enemas, monitoring catheters, dressing or re-dressing wounds plus performing personal hygiene for patients. This would include assisting patients with bathing, dressing, changing bed linen, helping ambulate, feeding and other activities needed to be cons=ducted in a daily basis while patients are in a nurse’s care. Additionally, experienced LPNs often play supervisory roles directing Certified Nursing Assistants. Other duties might include the collection of bodily discharged samples and blood for lab testing while also recording fluid and food intake and output. Pat of an LPN’s daily work is monitoring patients reporting any adverse reactions to treatments and medications prescribed. Information gathering plays an important role since often this data is used for insurance purposes as well as used for treatment pre-authorization or as the basis for referral to specialists. All information received by an LPN is shared with a patient’s physician as well as supervising RNs. Many LPNs are involved in the delivery and care for newborns.

Work is General in Nature

Almost all LPNS are generalists when it comes to nursing duties and do appear throughout the broad spectrum of delivery of health care in the nursing industry. However, some do find work in what is considered a specialized setting such as a nursing home, wound care facility, physician’s office (could be a specialty such as OBYN) or even possibly working at a blood bank. LPNs participate in patient evaluation while also acting as information dispensers consulting with patient’s families concerning health care treatments and a family’s role in the process. LPNs working in a physician’s office may also be required to conduct clerical duties such as making and confirming patient appointments, record keeping, filing and additional clerical chores. Some settings, such as home health care, may also require an LPN to cook meals and execute housekeeping duties. Some states allow LPNs to administer prescription medications, administer intravenous fluids and operate equipment such as ventilators.

What Work Environments do LPNs Encounter?
Almost all LPNs engaged in full time work put in a 40-hour week. Often, LPNs are employed as “live-in” nurses where a patient requires 24-hour care. Since health care delivery happens around the clock, LPNs can find themselves working nights, weekends and holiday schedules. Often, duties call upon an LPN to stand for long periods of time. They are often required to work in an environment facing different hazards such as exposure to chemicals, radiation as well as patients possessing an infectious disease. LPNs face a great deal of on-the-job stress and must often deal with patients who are hurting, confused, disoriented and agitated and me be quite uncooperative. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 18 percent of LPNs in 2008 worked part time.

What Type of Training or Education is Needed?
Typically, a student studying to become an LPN will enroll in a one-year program offered by technical or vocational schools in the community. Often a course can be found at a local community or junior college. All LPNs must pass a state license exam. Furthermore, training and preparation must be trough a state-approved course. In order to determine authorized programs, prospective LPN students should contact a local State Board of Nursing for a list of approved schools and programs. Training may also be found through employer-sponsored programs at hospitals or other health care facilities. Often, an authorized program can be found at high schools or local colleges. Typically, a high school diploma or GED is required for LPN program entry except for those programs that are part of a high school curriculum. Year-long programs provide a combination of classroom and clinical training. Classroom coursework covers all basic nursing concepts and all subjects necessary to learn for the delivery of proper patient care. Typical subjects studied include first aid, nursing, pharmacology, physiology, psychiatry, obstetrics, pediatrics, medical-surgery skills, anatomy and more.

What is the NCLEX-PN?
This is the national standard test – The National Council Licensure Examination – required to obtain an LPN license to work. It is a computer-based test that covers four major areas:

1. Providing a Safe and Effective Care Environment
2. Promotion and Maintenance of Good Health
3. Psychosocial Integrity
4. Physiological Integrity
Eligibility requirements do differ from one state to another.

Physical and Personal Qualifications
All individuals seeking to become an LPN should possess a caring and sympathetic personality. The emotional demands are great so all LPNs need to be very emotionally stable. LPNs need to be good observers as well as possessing good decision and communication skills. LPNs usually work as part of a team so the ability to work with others and follow directions is also important. An LPN should enjoy learning since the demand for obtaining additional CEUs (Continuing Education Units) places the individual in a continuous learning situation.

Employment Opportunities
In some employment situation such as nursing homes, LPNs may find an opportunity to become a charge nurse. This position would supervise other LPNs and CNAs. Also, LPNs can in some settings specialize in areas such as IV therapy, gerontology, nursing and long-term care as well as pharmacology.
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses held about 753,600 jobs in 2008, according to the BLS. About 25 percent of LPNs work in hospitals, 28 percent in nursing care facilities and another 12 percent in doctors’ offices. Others worked for home healthcare services; employment services; residential care facilities; community care facilities for the elderly; outpatient care centers; and Federal, State, and local government agencies. Job prospects will be specifically good in nursing care facilities and as home healthcare specialists.

Becoming an LPN is also an excellent step for individuals seeking to advance a nursing career. LPNs who, after getting some on-the-job experience, may opt to obtain a bachelor degree, then a master degree or even a doctorate opening up opportunities for greater personal and financial reward.

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