The aging population in the U.S. means considerable growth in many health care occupations, including that of the licensed practical nurse, or LPN. An LPN diploma opens many doors for someone who likes hands-on patient care. In addition, LPNs have the opportunity to choose among a variety of work settings.
LPN Job Basics
The LPN is an important member of the health care team. LPNs spend a year in a vocational nursing school or other educational setting to obtain a diploma in the field.
Courses include nursing theory, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and clinical coursework under the supervision of a qualified instructor. After completing his or her coursework, the LPN must pass a national level exam called the NCLEX-PN (National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses) to become licensed.
Regular continuing education is required to maintain that license. The licensing fee and requirements vary from state to state.
LPN and Skilled Nursing Jobs
Of all possible work settings, skilled nursing facilities and residential care employ the highest numbers of LPNs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These work settings require high levels of hands-on care, but patients are not as sick and their medical ailments are not as complex as in hospitals.
LPNs who work in these areas may hold supervisory positions, especially on evening and night shifts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 38 percent of LPNs worked in skilled nursing and residential care in 2016.
Patient level of illness, or acuity, in skilled nursing facilities is typically higher than in residential care, and many skilled nursing facilitates focus on rehabilitation.
The LPN and Hospital Jobs
Many people have the perception that LPNs no longer work in the hospital setting. In some cases, especially if a hospital is seeking to acquire magnet hospital status, that perception is accurate.
Magnet hospitals are required to have a higher percentage of registered nursing staff. However, in 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 16 percent of LPNs worked in federal, state, or private hospitals, so there are clearly still opportunities in this work setting. Smaller and rural hospitals are much likelier to employ LPNs.
The LPN and Home Care Jobs
Changes in technology allow many health care services to be provided in the home. Home care can range from basic rehabilitation after an injury to round-the-clock nursing care of a severely compromised patient with multiple medical problems.
Compared to certified nursing assistants and home health aides, LPNs’ higher scope of practice allows them to manage equipment such as ventilators or intravenous lines in the home. However, LPNs are a more cost-effective choice than RNs in the home care setting, and many home care organizations actively recruit LPNs for that reason. Most LPNs in home care work for agencies.
The LPN in a Doctor’s Office Job
Physicians’ offices employed almost as many LPNs in 2016 as hospitals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 13 percent of LPNs were employed in doctors’ offices.
In the office setting, LPNs often have two options. They may perform hands-on clinical work or move into an administrative role. LPNs can supervise medical assistants and other physician office workers, so they may become supervisors.
The LPN in an office setting might work in primary care, pediatrics, geriatrics, or one of dozens of different specialties such as dermatology, surgery, cardiology, internal medicine, or neurology. Each requires both basic and specialized knowledge.
In a specialty setting, with additional training, the LPN might perform a variety of more complex technological tasks, such as an electroencephalogram (EEG) or echocardiogram, or assist with basic in-office procedures.
The LPN and Outpatient Care Jobs
The outpatient care arena includes a wide variety of occupational settings for the LPN. For example, federally qualified health centers, or FQHCs, offer primary and specialty care services to the disadvantaged populations of the U.S.
Private organizations, such as large hospital systems and health management organizations, offer outpatient care to the insured population. Women’s clinics are another outpatient setting that focus on contraception, STD testing and management, and prenatal care.
Dialysis clinics provide a service to people with kidney failure. Blood banks may also have opportunities for the LPN.
One of the advantages outpatient care offers is that most of these organizations do not require weekend or night shifts. LPNs may have supervisory roles in these organizations. Other work settings in outpatient care include community based organizations and schools.
The LPN and Mental Health Jobs
Mental health settings include inpatient hospitals, outpatient clinics, and community organizations that offer counseling and support groups. The LPN can find a role in any of these areas, although specialized training may be required.
LPNs in inpatient mental health hospitals perform similar duties as those in a hospital but must also be knowledgeable about mental illness and counseling techniques. Once a patient is stabilized and safe to be released into the community, ongoing mental health care is usually required.
The LPN might lead support groups or work with counselors who specialize in something like addiction or substance abuse. In some states, LPNs can become psychiatric technicians.
The LPN in the Military
Some LPNs choose a military career, while others work in military hospitals or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as civilians.
The military offers work settings similar to civilian settings, primarily acute care hospitals, clinics, and skilled nursing facilities. Since military settings serve soldiers’ families, as well, the LPN might have a wide variety of opportunities, from nursing combat veterans to prenatal and obstetrical care and mental health services. Working in the military may also mean opportunity for travel overseas.
Becoming an LPN opens many doors. Your LPN diploma may also be a steppingstone to an RN (registered nurse) career. Others prefer to remain LPNs, secure in the knowledge that they will continue to have a wide variety of opportunities in the workplace throughout their careers.
Does learning about the jobs available to LPN diploma graduates interest you? Ready for an exciting new career in the health care field?
The Practical Nursing certificate program provides the graduate with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to function as a licensed practical nurse or LPN.
Part of the Practical Nursing training curriculum is devoted to theory and the rest to hands-on laboratory skills practice and off-site clinical externship rotations. These rotations include work at long-term care and rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, and childbearing and pediatric outpatient settings.
Upon successful completion of the NCLEX-PN, the National Council Licensure Examination, which is a nationwide examination for the licensing of nurses in the United States, the licensed practical nurse (LPN) works under the direction of a registered nurse or licensed physician in a variety of health care settings.
Contact us today to find out more about how to become a nurse on Long Island.