The licensed practical nurse job description portrays a professional who helps provide health care to patients in various settings. Licensed practical nurses operate throughout the health care field in nursing homes, hospitals and clinics. Beyond traditional health care settings, the services of LPN contribute to treating people in homes and even the criminal justice system. With experience and performance, licensed practical nurses can achieve some seniority and advancement and even transition into registered nurses. You can read all about the LPN job description below.
LPN Job Overview: What Does an LPN Professional Do?
The LPN job description includes elements of data collection, record keeping, and comforter, along with providing medical care. In certain settings, LPNs work amidst stressful and demanding conditions that require moving patients, treating those involved in violent incidents or emergencies and interacting with people demanding answers. The ability of LPNs to exhibit physical strength, emotional stability and concentration form essential parts of the licensed practical nurse job description.
LPN Job Duties
- Check patients’ blood pressure, temperature, weight and other vital signs.
- Change bandages, insert feeding tubes, catheters and oxygen tubes; drain fluids and provide other basic patient care.
- Report the condition, status, complaints, and concerns of patients to registered nurses and physicians.
- Keep records of patients, vital signs and health condition.
- Explain to patients the care they provide.
- Administer medications, in some cases under supervision of registered nurses or physicians.
- Answer patient inquires over the phone.
- Assist patients with changing clothes.
The duties portion of the LPN job description may differ according to work settings. For example, nursing home patients often need assistance with clothing. In jails and prisons, LPNs may respond to suicide attempts, dress wounds of inmates from fights or administer treatments. Some jurisdictions may limit or prohibit LPNs from giving medications or intravenous drips. While registered nurses can make some diagnosis, state laws and regulations generally prohibit LPNs from doing so.
LPN Job Essential Skills
Compassion and Empathy. Patients and their families often need reassurance and a calming environment. Showing compassion involves listening attentively to patient concerns and complaints. LPNs must respond respectfully to questions from patients or families about care and health conditions.
Interpersonal. LPNs interact with patients and families, physicians, other nurses and other health care providers. From physicians or registered nurses, LPNs often receive instructions. Families and patients also render questions and statements. The LPN job description includes the ability to remain calm, patient and respectful.
Detail-Oriented. Concentration and organization help LPNs attend to details about patients’ needs, conditions and proper treatments. The licensed practical nurse must know when, in what amount and how to administer medicines, oxygen, nutrition or other treatments.
Physical. LPNs spend significant amounts of time walking, standing, bending and reaching. In hospitals or nursing homes, LPNs may need strength to lift, bend or support patients.
Becoming an LPN Professional
An LPN must hold a license from the state of practice. To obtain the license, the prospective LPN must complete an approved course of study and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLE-PN). Certifications are available in specialties such as intravenous therapy, gerontology and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Qualifications & Training
The licensing process for LPNs begins with a certificate or diploma program. Generally, technical schools, community colleges and some hospitals offer this education. Typically, these programs run one year, but some may last longer. According to Rasmussen College, students may choose the LPN path over becoming an RN because of the shorter educational period. RNs typically spend three to four years in post-secondary education.
Within these programs, students take classes such as biology, nursing and pharmacology. Training occurs in clinics or other settings under supervision.
Exposure to medical settings can help those entering the LPN field. Aside from training in LPN programs, experience for aspiring LPNs can come from interning or volunteering in hospitals or clinics. Such work affords knowledge of medical terminology and the operations in a healthcare setting.
Prior experience is not a prerequisite to becoming a licensed practical nurse. However, employers may assign seniority, greater responsibility and higher pay based upon the length of an LPN’s practice. LPNs can use their work experience to continue education in registered nursing programs.
The typical LPN works full time. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that twenty percent were part-timers in 2014.
Within the LPN job description lies the willingness to work nights, weekends, holidays and pre-dawn hours. These irregular shifts often occur in hospitals and nursing homes, which operate at all times and hours. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing and residential care facilities employ 38 percent of LPNs. Another 17 percent of LPNs worked in hospitals.
LPNs in physicians’ offices, home healthcare agencies and governments typically keep more traditional hours. For those LPNs in home healthcare, many hours are logged each week traveling. Some evening and weekend work is possible to accommodate schedules of the patients. Within the government sector, LPNs in correctional facilities may expect irregular shifts in order to be available for emergency or first-aid treatments.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the LPN field should have a 16 percent rise in employment through 2024. This translates to 117,300 additional LPN positions.
Increased access to health care and health insurance should drive the demand for medical services. As the senior population increases because of longer life spans and expectancies, LPNs are needed to staff nursing homes and home health agencies that serve this demographic. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that “Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)” led industries in employment of LPNs, at 212,980 as of May 2015. Hospitals employed the second most LPNs, with 95,850.
With experience, LPNs can advance to senior positions or enter into programs to become registered nurses. Those with the registered nurse license have more responsibility and the ability to supervise other health care workers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics places the average pay of LPNs at $44,030 as of May 2015.
While licensed practical nurses typically work under more supervision than registered nurses, opportunities exist for advancement. In fact, LPNs can enter RN programs based on their work experience. As LPNs, these professionals still fulfill important functions of accurately recording medical information, handling equipment that delivers medications and fluids and comforting patients.
As demand for health care grows, LPNs should find ample opportunities for work in various settings. In particular, the increasing numbers of the elderly fuel job growth among nursing care facilities and home health care employers.