A career as a licensed practical nurse can be both rewarding and challenging. LPNs care for sick and injured patients under the supervision of registered nurses and doctors. According to the US Department of Labor, the future job outlook for LPNs is very good.
LPNs undergo less than a year of training in a community college or a technical school. After training, they must pass a computer-generated test, known as the NCLEX-PN. This exam is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
After successful completion of training and the NCLEX- PN, LPNs are ready to start their careers. LPNs are utilized in a variety of settings such as hospitals, convalescent homes, physician’s offices, home healthcare services, community care facilities and local, State and Federal government agencies.
The duties of an LPN differ slightly from that of an RN. LPN scope of responsibilities can vary by State and place of employment, but RNs typically have more medical responsibilities. The specific responsibilities of each LPN are also based on the training and skills of the particular nurse.
Nurses who have more extensive training will naturally be better equipped to handle complex tasks and will be given higher amounts of responsibility.
The following list is a general description of the scope of practice for most LPNs. Since the duties often differ from state to state, you can also refer to your States Nurses Practices Act for information applicable to your State of employment.
LPNs are responsible for prepping new patients in a hospital setting. LPNs also administer routine health history checks.
LPNs monitor the daily vital signs of patients. They record the patient’s height, weight, blood pressure, body temperature, pulse and respiration. This helps to inform doctors of the patient’s recovery status.
LPNs are responsible for the overall hygiene and often assist in personal hygiene matters of patients. To help keep the patients comfortable, they frequently bathe, dress, move and assist with routine hygiene issues.
LPNs chart and monitor patient’s medication, dosages, and keep track of daily medication times. They also record fluid and water intake as well as output.
LPNs care for patient wounds by cleaning and applying dressings and bandages. LPNs are responsible for wound care in hospital settings as well as at a patient’s home.
Home Health Care
LPNs assist the patient at home in a variety of ways. In a home setting, they make sure that the patient gets proper nutrition. They also help to clean the patient and make sure that they take their daily prescribed medications.
LPNs help observe patients who are administered IV drips. In this capacity, they report their findings to an RN. Furthermore, in some States and institutions, LPNs may be tasked with changing catheters and fluid bags.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services advised that the scope and practice of LPNs fall under their respective State’s jurisdiction and specific institution’s policy.
LPNs generally work under the supervision of the registered nurse and are often restricted from the following tasks:
Initial Patient Assessment
RNs typically perform the patient’s initial assessment and are responsible for making plans for patient care; however, the LPN will assist with putting this plan into action.
LPNs generally administer topical, oral and intramuscular medications. The administration of IV medications may be limited and will usually depend on their State of practice. Certain States require additional training for IV administration.
LPNs cannot admit or discharge patients. This task falls within the scope of a RN’s responsibilities.
An LPN plays a vital role as a member of a complete healthcare team. While RNs have more responsibility, LPNs also carry the important task of dealing directly with the patients. In this capacity, they must use sound judgment and critical thinking skills to understand and address the needs of their patients.