What Does A Licensed Practical Nurse Do?

Licensed practical nurses (LPN) work in nursing care facilities, hospitals, physician’s offices and other healthcare settings giving patients basic medical care. Working under the supervision of registered nurses or physicians, they perform a wide variety of tasks geared towards improving a patient’s condition.

In a typical day, LPNs may be asked to check on a patient’s blood pressure, take his respiration rate, obtain his temperature and measure other vital signs. They also record these in the patient’s chart. They may also assist patients who are having difficulty getting up from bed, bathing or dressing up. If a patient cannot eat by himself, LPNs may also need to feed them. They may also provide patients the instructions that have already been previously given by a registered nurse regarding how a relative who has just been discharged from the hospital should be cared for at home.

LPNs may also care for wounds and change dressings, collect specimens and insert and care for urinary catheters. They also provide care to patients hooked on ventilators and those with tracheostomies. They may also be allowed to care for and maintain a patient’s ostomy site. They may also perform blood sugar testing using the finger stick method. During emergencies, they may have to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). After administering medications, LPNs may be required to observe the patient for any allergic reactions. If the patient exhibits any, they promptly inform the attending physician.

Part of the work that LPNs do involves listening to their problems and concerns. If it is possible for them to address the issue right there provided that it is within the bounds of their licenses to do so, they immediately do what they can. However, if it isn’t, they echo the patient’s problems to their supervisor who will determine the next steps to take.

It’s very important for LPNs to know the duties that they can do based on the license that they are issued. This is because their tasks depend on the facility they work in and the rules of the state where they are practicing. For instance, some states allow LPNs who have undergone the proper training to administer medications or provide IV therapy while other states don’t. The degree of supervision that they are subjected to is also dependent on state regulations. In some states, LPNs may only be allowed to provide certain types of care when a registered nurse has authorized them to do so.

LPNs practicing in Texas and Oklahoma have wider responsibilities and are typically permitted to do a lot of tasks that RNs do. For example, they can start IVs, intravenous medication administration and keep central lines maintained. Those LPNs practicing in California and New York are restricted in the kinds of tasks that they can do.

LPNs typically work fulltime. As in other careers in the healthcare profession, they can work evenings, weekends and holidays. They may also be called upon to do shift work of at least eight hours. The work they do can also be physically demanding as they often have to assist and lift patients who may be heavier than they are. As in any healthcare career, being an LPN can be emotionally draining inasmuch as they have to support patients who are suffering and in pain. They also have to provide support to families who are trying to stay strong for their loved ones.

As people continue to live longer and lead more active lifestyles, the services of LPNs are going to be in high demand especially in skilled nursing and extended care facilities as well as outpatient care facilities. Moreover, there will be better job prospects for areas that are medically underserved, such as those in the rural areas.

Experienced LPNs may advance to supervisory positions in the facility where they are working in. They may also opt to continue their studies to become registered nurses. Becoming an RN is usually the stepping stone for advancement in the nursing profession. Because of the experience and training gained in the healthcare setting, it is easier for LPNs to become RNs.

Career Spotlight: Licensed Practical Nurse

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