One of the great things about the healthcare profession is there are so many paths to choose from. Even within nursing itself, there are a variety of education levels, designations, and workplace opportunities. One of the most rewarding and common nursing career paths is that of the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).
LPNs are crucial members of care teams in a wide variety of facilities, alongside other kinds of nurses like nurse practitioners and Registered Nurses (RNs). And while RNs, nurse practitioners, LPNs, and other kinds of nurses all practice nursing, there are different education levels and responsibilities involved in each.
Let’s learn more about what a licensed practical nurse does and in what kinds of facilities these nursing professionals can work. Whether you’re already an LPN or are considering embarking on the path soon, this can help you decide if the LPN path is right for you.
What is a Licensed Practical Nurse?
With all sorts of nursing designations out there, it can be confusing what an LPN actually is. A licensed practical nurse is responsible for basic patient care, just like other kinds of nurses, but they don’t have the education level of more advanced nursing designations like RNs.
To receive an LPN license, a nurse must complete an accredited training program—these usually last about a year or so—which will involve a combination of classroom study in subjects like biology, pharmacology, anatomy, and nursing basics, as well as supervised clinical experience. Programs like these are commonly offered through trade schools, technical colleges, and community colleges.
When an LPN has completed their classroom coursework and their clinical hours, they’ll sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). Upon passing this exam, the LPN is licensed and can now begin working in their state.
Many LPNs gain more advanced education after earning their licensure, perhaps earning a Bachelor’s degree in nursing to become an RN or obtaining specialized certifications in particular areas like neonatal care. That’s another great thing about the LPN career path—it’s a perfectly viable career choice all on its own, and it also can serve as a valuable platform to advance your nursing education and career if you so choose.
What Do LPNs Do?
The job of an LPN is to keep patients comfortable and healthy while under their care in a hospital or healthcare facility setting. While the scope of practice for an LPN varies by state regulations—some LPNs are allowed to give intravenous medications while some aren’t, for example—the basic duties are usually the same. They include things like:
Taking Patient Vitals
LPNs take and record patients’ vital signs, like blood pressure, temperature, respiration, and pulse. This information is recorded and logged, and it’s an LPN’s job to notify his or her superiors if necessary.
Many LPNs administer medications, both orally as well as through an intravenous drip. The job involves dosing the medication, setting up the equipment, and administration. Note that some states don’t allow LPNs to administer medication, instead of leaving this part of the nursing job up to RNs.
Changing bandages and dressing wounds is another big part of an LPN’s job. The focus is on keeping wounds clean and dry while maintaining the patient’s comfort as much as possible.
Assist with Day-to-Day Activities
Depending on the scope of practice, the facility an LPN works in, and the job description, an LPN might also help patients with day-to-day activities like bathing, eating, and dressing. Patients may not be able to perform these tasks themselves because of poor health, injury, old age, and other factors, and it’s an LPNs job to help with these activities so the patient can remain comfortable.
Communicating with Patients and Family
A big part of an LPN’s job involves communication. Not only do LPNs interview patients and record their medical history and condition, but they also talk with family members to explain treatment plans or diagnoses.
Where Can LPNs Work?
There are plenty of options for licensed practical nurse employment—more than you might think, in fact. LPNs have various opportunities to advance their skills in different settings and build up their resumes and experience in a number of care settings.
Some of the most common places where LPNs work include:
You might be surprised to learn that nursing homes are the most common workplaces for LPNs; nearly one out of every four LPNs work in a nursing home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. An LPN’s job in a nursing home involves caring for patients directly and supporting other types of healthcare professionals, like nurse practitioners, RNs, rehabilitation experts, and physicians. They’re responsible for resident care needs and comfort on a day-to-day basis and will assist with many activities of daily living like eating meals, dressing, and bathing.
Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted living facilities are another common area where an LPN could work. Assisted living facilities are similar to nursing homes, but they’re not the same thing. Residents of a nursing home typically need round-the-clock care and frequent monitoring, while residents in an assisted living facility don’t need that high of a level of care. The medical needs of an assisted living facility resident are typically lesser than those of nursing home residents. And assisted living facility residents often have their own apartments or suites within the facility, while nursing home residents may have their own room or even a shared room.
Hospitals are the second-most common employment setting for LPNs behind nursing homes, according to the BLS. LPNs in hospitals will help with the daily needs of patients and will take vital signs, dress wounds, and help to feed and bathe patients if necessary. In the hospital setting, you’ll work with various other types of healthcare professionals and will typically be following the healthcare plans developed by RNs or physicians.
Rehabilitation centers offer temporary residence to patients while preparing them for more independent living situations while they undergo physical therapy or other kinds of rehab. LPNs assist with everything from activities of daily living to medication administration, collection of vital signs and patient records, and much more.
You might also be surprised to learn that an LPN can work in a doctor’s office. LPNs looking for a slightly slower pace than that of a hospital might find this path suitable. An LPN working in this role can help gather symptom information as well as basic patient information, dress wounds, check patients in, administer medication or treatment, and much more.
Immunization clinics may employ LPNs on a seasonal, part-time basis, or on a full-time basis. These kinds of clinics are essential, not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic but for reaching underserved and rural communities, or anyone who is unable to travel to a large healthcare center. Working part-time at an immunization clinic can even serve as a good way for an LPN to gain more experience in the field while earning extra income at the same time.
While many school districts prefer an RN as their school nurse—and some states require it—many LPNs are in fact employed in school settings. An LPN can provide basic healthcare services to students, as well as faculty, and they are also utilized in an educational sense to help roll out district health initiatives. LPNs can also work in school settings under the supervision of an RN or other nursing professional.
A growing area of healthcare in which LPNs can work is home healthcare. An LPN will be carrying out the care plan, probably created by an RN or doctor, and perform typical duties like wound care, medication administration, taking vitals, and assistance with activities of daily living. The only difference is that the LPN travels to the patient’s home to perform these duties. Most home healthcare LPNs work for nurse and LPN recruitment agencies.
Connect With Horizon Healthcare to Find Your Next LPN Job
As you can see, there are a variety of possibilities out there for licensed practical nurses. From nursing homes and assisted living facilities to hospitals, physician’s offices, schools, home healthcare settings, and more, the opportunities are plentiful. And with an aging population that will only need more healthcare in the coming years, the outlook for LPN jobs is good.
If you’re an LPN looking for your next opportunity, or you’re interested in breaking into this exciting area of nursing, Horizon Healthcare Management is here for you. We’ll help you find LPN jobs you won’t find on the major job boards, and we can help polish your resume and prepare you for interviews—that allows you to make the best first impression on hiring managers and get your LPN journey started as quickly as possible. From skilled nursing facility recruitment to hospital staffing and everything in between, trust Horizon Healthcare Management’s professional healthcare staffing solutions.
Launch your journey as an LPN by contacting one of our expert recruiters today.