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Licensed Practical Nurse

Licensed Practical Nurse


Gateway to Nursing: the Licensed Practical Nurse


The Licensed Practical Nurse (or Licensed Vocational Nurse) is very much a part of the family of professionals at any hospital.  This job is a significant step up from Certified Nurses Aide.  In a hospital setting, LPNs provide basic bedside care, taking vital signs and recording them in the patient's chart.  They also prepare and give injections and enemas, monitor catheters, apply dressings, and treat bedsores.  LPNs monitor their patients and report adverse reactions to medications or treatments.


They collect samples for testing, perform routine laboratory tests, and record food and fluid intake and output. To help keep patients comfortable, LPNs assist with bathing, dressing, and personal hygiene. In States where the law allows, they may administer prescribed medicines or start intravenous fluids.  Within the hospital setting, an LPN's role falls just short of that performed by a registered nurse.


The Future of the Licensed Practical Nurse Career


The progress of medicine is such that hospital stays in general are fewer and of shorter duration.  Many procedures that once required inpatient status are now performed on an outpatient basis, often in a doctor's office.  Because of these evolving medical practices, the demand for Licensed Practical Nurses in hospitals is projected to decline.  That will be balanced, however, by the increasing need for LPNs in assisted living facilities that provide for the elderly. 


The need for LPNs will be on the rise in long term care facilities, which are designed to care for people who have been discharged from the hospital but are not sufficiently healthy to return home.  There is also an increasing consumer preference for home health care that will provide expanded opportunities for LPNs.  Medical technology has made it possible for many complex treatments to be performed in the home, and when it is feasible patients faced with long term recovery often prefer to be at home.


Learning the Skills of a Licensed Practical Nurse


Practical nursing teaching programs are found in technical vocational schools, community colleges, and in some cases through established colleges and universities.  Those with teaching hospitals are most likely to have an LPN training program.  Typically, these programs last about 1 year and include both classroom study and supervised clinical practice (patient care). Classroom study covers basic nursing concepts and patient care-related subjects, including anatomy, physiology, surgical nursing, pediatrics, the administration of drugs, nutrition, and first aid. Supervised work often occurs in a hospital, but may also be arranged in health clinics or similar large-scale medical treatment facilities.


All states and the District of Columbia require LPNs to pass a licensing examination, known as the NCLEX-PN, after completing a state-approved practical nursing program. A high school diploma or its equivalent usually is required for entry, although some programs accept candidates without a diploma, and some are designed as part of a high school curriculum.  The key to licensure is an accredited teaching program and passing the standardized test.


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