What does a Licensed Practical Nurse do?
A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is a medical professional who cares for the basic needs of patients. Common responsibilities may include monitoring vital signs, administering basic treatments such as injections or IV fluids, assisting physicians with medical procedures, and ensuring patient comfort. Licensed practical nurses can work in a wide variety of medical settings, from large hospitals or nursing homes to small clinics and private jobs. Other tasks may include:
- Provide routine patient care during visits
- Assist physicians and registered nurses in administering treatment plans and performing health checks and diagnoses
- Observe patients and take notes of any potential areas to discuss with a doctor
- Communicate with patients and their families to provide a deeper understanding of their treatment plans
Average wage of a Licensed Practical Nurse
Licensed Practical Nurses are typically employed full time, and it is common for them to work overtime, nights and weekends. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed:
- Common wage in the US: $26.45 per hour
- Some salaries range from $10.25 to $41.65 an hour.
Licensed Practical Nurse Requirements
To be considered for a licensed practical nurse position, an applicant will need to demonstrate that they meet the minimum requirements. These include:
Aspiring licensed practical nurses must complete a licensed practical nursing program, which is offered by most colleges. To enroll in a licensed practical nursing program, the student must first have earned a high school diploma or a comparable achievement such as the GED (General Education Diploma). A licensed practical nursing program typically consists of a year of study, with classroom learning and practical application in a supervised setting.
Most of the professional training for a licensed practical nurse will take place during the one-year educational program. In addition to the skills learned during this program, an employer may have new employees complete additional on-the-job training after they are hired. This training allows the new LPN to learn the specific procedures preferred by the facility and the opportunity to work with experienced medical professionals to refine the techniques learned during the LPN program.
After completing the licensed practical nurse program, an aspiring LPN must pass the National Council for Practical Nurses Licensing Examination (NCLEX-PN). The exam consists of between 85 and 205 multiple-choice questions on a variety of topics, including health promotion and maintenance, physiological integrity, psychological integrity, and safe and effective care environments. Applicants have five hours to complete the exam, and students who do not pass must wait 45 to 90 days before they can retake the exam.
Some licensed practical nurses choose to pursue additional certifications. Although certifications are often not required by employers, they can help distinguish an applicant, particularly if applied to common areas of focus at the employer’s facility. Some popular certifications are:
Advanced Cardiac Life Support (AVS) and Basic Life Support (BLS)
People often complete these certifications at the same time. They go well together as they demonstrate competence in identifying and stabilizing many of the most common life-threatening healthcare scenarios, making them widely applicable skills in a variety of healthcare settings.
Nurses who are interested in social work are the ones who most commonly seek this certification. The programs teach the skills necessary for medical case management.
A certification in developmental disabilities demonstrates that an LPN has learned the skills she needs to work with children and adults with both intellectual and developmental disabilities.
A certification in gerontology demonstrates the ability to effectively care for elderly patients. This is a useful option when intending to work in long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.
Pediatric advanced life support
For people who want to work with children, a PALS certification demonstrates competency in the skills necessary to work in specialized infant, child, and adolescent care settings.
Wound Care Certification
This certification is very popular as it is valued by both long-term care facilities and hospitals.
A qualified practical nurse candidate will have many hard and soft skills, such as:
An LPN is expected to possess all of the basic nursing skills necessary to handle a variety of medical scenarios. This includes assistance with checkups, simple procedures, and urgent care when needed.
Attention to detail
Accuracy is necessary in the daily work of an LPN to ensure that errors do not occur when administering treatments. Small mistakes can have dangerous or even deadly consequences, so attention to detail is an essential skill.
Capacity to work under pressure
During an emergency, all medical personnel must be able to remain calm in order to act effectively. The ability to remain relaxed and focused during an emergency gives patients the best chance for a successful outcome.
This ability allows a person to withstand long hours of physical activity. Many LPNs will be on their feet for most, if not all, of a shift, which can mean being on their feet for more than 10 hours. This nurse will need the stamina to withstand the physical stresses of a long and busy nursing shift.
The ability to empathize with others and speak with them in an understanding way is an essential skill for LPNs. A nurse will often need to talk to patients or family members after they have been given distressing medical news, and an understanding demeanor can help comfort them at such a difficult time.
The ability to communicate verbally is necessary in nursing, as the LPN will often need to relay information from the patient to the physician or vice versa. Clear and concise communication enables the efficient and accurate transfer of important information.
How to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
Here is the most common procedure for starting a career as a licensed practical nurse:
1. Complete basic education.
Although a degree from an institution of higher education is not required, you must earn at least a high school diploma or a comparable certificate such as a GED.
2. Enter an LPN education program.
A licensed practical nursing program provides a mix of classroom and hands-on learning and teaches the basic skills an LPN requires. Completing a certified LPN course is a prerequisite for taking the NCLEX-PN exam.
3. Pass the NCLEX-PN exam.
The last requirement before applying for open positions is to pass the NCLEX-PN exam. The exam verifies that the candidate has sufficiently mastered the topics covered during their RN training program.
4. Obtain additional certification.
Many aspiring RNs choose to pursue additional certification before entering the job market. If you have a preferred area of employment within the nursing industry, choose certifications that are geared towards that line of work.
5. Create your resume.
Create a resume that highlights your qualifications. A traditional resume with your prior experience first is optimal if you’ve worked in the field before, while a functional resume that highlights your skills and certifications may be best if you’re applying for an entry-level role and lack relevant work experience.
6. Apply for openings.
Find the job listings that fit your goals as a nurse and submit your resume along with a cover letter that showcases your certifications and best attributes. If you have a strong letter of recommendation, such as from a former supervisor who speaks highly of you, include it with your application.
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