LPN Job Description:
My daily duties as a Licensed Practical Nurse depend on which nursing agency I’m working for on that day. I’m employed by two nursing agencies and one nursing home, so I can set my schedule according to my preferences and I don’t get bored! I’m also a professional photographer specializing in wedding photography, so I want to be available for photography appointments.
Generally, the LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) is responsible for passing out medications and doing treatments, but assignments and responsibilities are affected by the type of facility where you are employed. Most LPN’s select an area of nursing that they enjoy and stick to that, such as a staff nurse in a nursing home or private duty (home care) through a nursing agency. Many hospitals today don’t post job positions for LPN’s, but will sometimes hire an experienced LPN where they had posted for a Registered Nurse.
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I have tried to keep my medical knowledge well-rounded with continuing education and extra certifications. I’ve always requested crossover training when possible, such as the emergency room, pediatrics and intensive care. I’ve taken specialized courses for geriatrics, dementia and Alzheimer's, medications, wound care and more. I’ve taken LPN supervisor courses and additional CPR courses. I’ve passed the EMT Course (Emergency Medical Technician) and am IV and ACLS (Advanced Care Life Support) certified.
I do all this so that my options continue to be fluid and unlimited. Presently, I work on the skilled unit of a local nursing home taking care of post-surgical hip replacements and other elective surgeries, and I alternate between doing private duty in a home setting, or working for the MRDD (mentally retarded developmentally disabled) population. At the nursing home, I keep the medications given, as ordered by the doctor, and give pain meds (pills and shots) as needed. Also, I change dressings (bandages), give tube feeding through a tube in the stomach called a G-tube and limited (very limited) intravenous care.
Each state has different regulations for what a LPN can and cannot do. In Ohio, I can do less with IV’s than in Florida where I am also currently licensed as a LPN because my family lives there. We also are expected to complete physical assessments. We take vital signs that include temperature, pulse and respirations and blood pressure. We are the eyes and ears for the doctor, and we are expected to call the doctor for any changes in the condition of any patient.
How does a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) differ from a Registered Nurse (RN)?
The Nurse Practice Act defines both the RN and LPN. It says that practical nursing is the performance of certain duties, including administration of treatment and medication in the care of the injured or sick, and promotion of wellness, maintenance of health and prevention of illness under the direction of an RN or a licensed physician. While the LPN may have a wealth of knowledge over a long and productive career, this does not make her a RN. The LPN is always required (no matter what state she works in) to work under the direction of a RN or licensed physician.
While RN’s are allowed to perform more procedures with less supervision, sometimes the job responsibilities can be the same and often overlap with the LPN. This often leads to friction and resentment if all the nurses (LPN’s and RN’s) are not respectful and professional. The difference between the RN and LPN is in education, training and pay. Sometimes the experienced LPN actually knows more than a new RN, but the RN is always “in charge”.
What were your career steps leading up to your present job, LPN nursing home care?
My career steps to become a Licensed Practical Nurse started when I was 18. After high school, I thought I wanted to become a teacher or registered nurse. However, I lived with my grandparents and thought I couldn’t afford college. I also thought I wasn't "smart" enough to be a college student. I was wrong on both counts. I could have qualified for college tuition due to my poverty level at that time.
Thankfully, I was working as an aide in a local nursing home, and a RN who worked with me offered to let me to live with her family and go to practical nursing school for a year. I’ve always been grateful for that special family. I worked at Kettering Hospital in Dayton, Ohio to help pay my expenses.
Any advice for those interested in becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse?
Please use it as a stepping stone for higher education. You can work as a LPN when you’ve passed state boards after one year of training and make fairly good money, but if you don’t further your education, you will always have a limited scope of practice and endure comments such as, “You are not a real nurse" and jokes like, “LPN stands for ‘Let’s Play Nurse’." Even though LPN’s are a valuable part of the healthcare system, many times they are not recognized for their contributions and experience due to their limited formal education.
What is the job outlook for those interested in becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse?
Great! I have never forgotten how our instructors drilled us day after day that, within our lifetime, the LPN would be replaced with the RN. That was almost 40 years ago, and today we still are alive and well. Our job description has changed somewhat; we often find ourselves doing bedpan duty and answering call lights (again), but that also depends on where you choose to work. Every state has as a strong board of nursing that can be quickly accessed by a Google search. In my opinion, the LPN will always have job opportunities.
What factors affect the average income of a Licensed Practical Nurse?
LPN's are paid by the hour, while many RN’s work on a fixed salary as administrators. Factors that affect a LPN salary include years of experience (many new grads have a hard time getting work), geographics, extra certifications such as IV Therapy or ACLS (Advanced Care Life Support), Telemetry (heart monitoring) training and continued education. LPN salaries are also affected depending if you work in the private sector vs. governmental.
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