A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is much sought-after currently as America is experiencing a nursing shortage, and it is easy to have a successful LPN career if you follow some good advice. An LPN performs a variety of tasks under the direct supervision of a medical doctor or a registered nurse, and their focus is patient-care. LPNs are also known as as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) in some states.
Licensed Practical Nurses work in a variety of settings, including home health care services, community care facilities for the elderly, hospitals, nursing care facilities, employment services, public and private educational services, offices of physicians, Federal, State, and local government agencies, and outpatient care centers. Whilst most LPNs work full-time, there are many following a successful LPN career working part-time.
In 2008 there were approximately 726,000 nurses enjoying a successful LPN career within the United States. The employment outlook for LPNs is very good, and is expected to grow substantially in the current decade, up to 2018. This projected growth is due to the general growth of health care services and the long-term care needs of an increasingly elderly population. Because many of the sophisticated procedures that were once performed in hospitals are now being performed in physicians’ offices and in outpatient care centers such as emergency medical centers and ambulatory surgical centers, the employment of LPNs in hospitals has begun to decline. This is due to the many advances in medical technology.
Although there will be stiff competition for LPN jobs in hospitals, the growth in most health care industries outside the traditional hospital setting such as nursing care facilities and home health care services is projected to grow faster than average, and this will create plenty of opportunities for you to follow a successful LPN career.
What Character Traits Are Required To Become An LPN?
Licensed Practical Nurses need to have the right nursing skills in order to have a successful LPN career, but academic skills are not all that is required. It is very important that an LPN have the right personality and character traits for the job too.
In order to become an LPN you must:
- Be gentle, caring and understanding of patients and their situation
- Be able to think on your feet in an emergency
- Be intelligent, responsive and proactive
- Be and active person as you will be on your feet most of the day
- You will need to have stamina as you may have to lift patients, work for many hours at a time, and help patients with their mobility and wheel them around if necessary
In order to have a successful LPN career you will also need to be dedicated, not mind working long hours, over weekends and public holidays, be able to follow orders, and be interested in continuing learning in order to improve your knowledge and advance to higher levels.
How Does One Become A Licensed Practical Nurse?
In order to have a successful LPN career, you will have to follow a career path that begins with becoming a nurse in one of the quickest ways possible; this can be achieved by attending classes at one of the nursing schools that offer LPN classes and training programs, either after hours whilst still continuing your current job or full-time. Many schools offer these programs as distance learning courses too.
An LPN can perform nursing duties without having achieved a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and it only takes one year to complete the training, which can be done via a technical school, vocational center, or community college. Once you have your LPN qualification you can study further and obtain your bachelor’s degree, which you will require later on in order to pursue a successful LPN career.
In Order to become an LPN you will need to complete the following steps:
1. Complete a Training Program
You will need to have graduated high school or have your GED in order to be eligible for training as an LPN. It takes approximately one year to complete a training program to become a Licensed Practical Nurse. These courses focus on various nursing principles, psychology, and adult and child health and among other things. You will also be exposed to laboratory work and clinical practice during your training.
2. Get your LPN License
Once you have completed your nurse training and passed your exams you will be qualified as a Practical Nurse, but in order to get your licensure you will need to sit for and pass the National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nursing (NCLEX). The NCLEX is supervised by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
The exam covers areas such as physiological integrity, pharmacological therapies, health promotion and maintenance, and safe effective care environment. Some of the skills on which you will be tested are patient care, nursing concepts, math skills, first aid, and comprehension and reading skills.
The NCLEX exam is a multiple-choice exam, and it uses an interactive system called Computerized Adaptive Testing to gauge your competence. You will be required to answer a minimum of 85 questions, after which the computer will attempt to assess your level of competence. If you are clearly above the passing standard you will pass; if not you will continue to answer questions until a final assessment can be made, up to a maximum of 205 questions.
Should you fail to pass the NCLEX, a diagnostic profile will be mailed to you by your state board of nursing. This profile will outline both the areas of knowledge in which your performance was satisfactory and the areas in which it was not. After taking steps to improve your knowledge in the areas where it was lacking and after a period of 91 days, as required by the National Council’s policy, you may retake the test. Once you have passed the NCLEX you will be able to use the designation LPN. Obtaining licensure is a very important step in ensuring that you have a successful LPN career.
What Is The Role Of The LPN In The Patient Care Team?
The Licensed Practical Nurses program was inspired after the end of WWII, when there was a glut of patients and good nurses were needed quickly. With the new healthcare legislation, America is once again in a similar situation, with a projected 32 million more people entering our health care system by 2014. On top of that, 79 million Baby Boomers will need more care as they grow older. This is going to create an unprecedented nursing shortage and the need for Licensed Practical Nurses will be paramount.
There have been many attempts to eliminate LPN positions in hospital settings over the past few decades. This is inconceivable, as nurses have to do far more with less and patient loads are so demanding that in some cases patient care is suffering. The role of the LPN in the patient care team is one that is vital, as their training may lack the core courses that degrees provide, but the physiology, anatomy, chemistry and other nursing courses are of the same and sometimes better caliber than the Associate Degree RN programs. LPN students also generally have as much or even greater clinical opportunities than RN students.
The level of care that an LPN can offer makes them an integral member of the patient care team, and the many specialty programs and fast-track programs that are available to LPNs mean that they can improve their knowledge and skills, and can look forward to a successful LPN career.
How To Ensure A Successful LPN Career
Studying to become an LPN, taking courses in order to improve your knowledge and skills and choosing specialities are all good, but we all determine our own destiny regarding our nursing career.
There are many other tricks-of-the-trade that will ensure a successful LPN career:
- Know your scope of practice
The scope of practice for LPNs differs somewhat from state to state, and even from facility to facility. Your professional responsibility is to be aware of the legal scope of nursing in the state in which you are practicing. If you are not sure of what it is, you can contact the State Board of Nursing for your state. You may also be able to access the information by visiting their website. Remember, even though you may know how to do something that does not mean that it is legal for you to do in that state or that it is in line with facility policy. An example of this is administering injections; some states and facilities allow LPNs to administer injections but others do not.
- Be an advocate for practical/vocational nursing
There is a variety of professional LPN organizations, and it is imperative to a successful LPN career that you find out what they are and join one or more, on both a local and national level. These organizations are important because they can serve as platforms from which to advocate for the rights of LPNs, for better working conditions for nurses, for more funding for nursing scholarships, increased patient safety initiatives, and nurse recruitment and retention initiatives. Run for political office, lobby your legislative representatives, and discuss issues surrounding health care that are important to you and to the nursing profession.
- Be Careful
This may sound very trite, but it is not. Everyone makes mistakes, nurses included, but the difference is that making a mistake could cost you a successful LPN career. There are various steps that can be taken in order to prevent errors, including errors in administering medication.
An example of this is to remember the pharmacology course you took when studying to become a licensed practical nurse; it is essential that you follow the “six rights” of medication documentation and administration, even if you have administered the exact same medication to the same patient many times. This is crucial because the physician’s orders may have changed, and unless you check the Medication Administration Record (MAR) each time prior to administering medication it is easy to miss those changes.
It is important not to take shortcuts, even when short-staffed and under pressure, as shortcuts can lead to dire consequences. Always think before you act and maintain high ethical standards when you practice. Remember that as a nurse you are the face of the nursing profession and of the facility for which you work to your patients and their families, so if you are not sure of something rather ask someone who is in a position to help you.
- Be a leader
Many individuals believe that only those in a management position can be leaders, but his is far from the truth. Some managers are not, and some leaders are not managers. A leader is someone who has the innate ability to set priorities, organize their work, and communicate and work easily with others.
Leadership skills and abilities can be learned, and anyone who has some initiative can be a leader in his or her workplace and profession. Putting yourself forward to serve on facility committees, being visible in a positive way and always presenting yourself professionally are all signs of leadership that will be taken note of by your seniors and will work well for you in your quest for a successful LPN career.
- Set goals for yourself
It is imperative that you set goals for yourself, no matter what your future aspirations are. You should set goals even if you do not intend continuing your nursing education. It is important to set professional development goals such as reading nursing journals, joining professional LPN or nursing organizations, or anything else that interests you and will assure you of a successful LPN career.
The best way to ensure a successful LPN career is to choose specialties and study further, of course. Even if you need to be flexible in setting your goals for further studies, it is important that you do set goals and set a time frame for completion of your studies.