Being an LPN is one thing, but being a successful LPN is quite another. There are a number of different parameters to the job, all of which must be taken to consideration at all times if you are to become a licensed practical nurse with a reputation for excellence. Following these tips may be easier said than done, but excellence in your chosen profession can be achieved simply by trying your best.
Tip 1: Be Careful
The first tip for being a successful LPN is extremely simple: be careful. Everyone makes mistakes. This is something that you cannot hope to avoid. In nursing, however, the mistakes that you make can cost you your job and your patient his life. Consequently a far higher degree of care must be taken in this profession in comparison to others. There are a number of steps that nurses are taught when, for example, administering medicine and these steps must be followed every time you administer a medication, even if you have administered the same medication to the same patient a hundred times before. One of the steps on this process involves checking the patient’s chart. This is important because it is highly possible that the doctor in charge of that patient’s case made a change to the medication specifications while you were off duty. Following the doctor’s specifications is essential. If you do not your patient may receive either too little or too much of the medication in question which could have catastrophic consequences. A few very basic things can be kept in mind here:
- Do not take short-cuts: this will seem tempting from time to time as nurses are extremely busy, but short-cuts lead to errors that can, in the health care profession, be very serious indeed.
- Think before you act: before you do anything make sure that you have considered all necessary factors.
- Ask for help when necessary: if you are simply not sure what to do you have the full right as well as the responsibility to, as an LPN, ask for help from a more senior nurse – this is a learning experience that will also keep you from making errors.
- Keep ethical standards high: you are the measuring stick against which your facility will be measured by patients and their families.
Tip 2: Know Your Scope Of Practice
The scope of practice for an LPN is essentially a list of things that you, as an LPN, may and may not do. A successful LPN is one who adheres to this scope of practice. According to http://www.lsbpne.com/scope_of_practice.htm the following fall within a LPNs scope of practice:
- Initiating and maintaining IV therapy
- Administering IV medications by IVPB and/or IVP
- Reinserting suprapubic catheters
- Accepting verbal and phone orders directly from the prescriber
- Serve as first surgical assistant (but may not suture, dissect or cauterize)
- Maintaining and administering meds via heparin locks
- Administering pap smears, GC cultures, IUD string checks, fundal heart tones, and Leopold’s Maneuvers
- Applying Unna Boots
- Loading and monitoring PCA machines
- Caring for clients with external venous catheters
- Caring for clients with internal venous access devices
- Inserting a feeding tube in a neonate
- Reinserting a tracheostomy tube in an established tract
- Removing sheaths in a cardiac cath lab and later D/C these lines
- Performing tasks which promote pulmonary health and hygiene
- Performing “head to toe” physical assessments
Disregarding the scope of practice is dangerous. It can cost you your job even if you do something accurately and with excellence. At times emergency circumstances will offer exceptions to the rule, but this is rare. Knowing how to do something doesn’t mean that you are allowed to do it. Your state board of nursing can provide you with more information on this topic. The scope of practice for LPNs can differ from state to state. Consequently it is your responsibility to gain a full understanding regarding what your limitations in your state are. This is usually covered in LPN training and the information is always readily available, leaving you with no excuse.
Tip 3: Be An Advocate
Successful LPNs are those who go above and beyond the call of duty. In order to do this you could consider becoming an active advocate for the profession. There are a large number of nursing organizations that you can join through which you will be able to be part of changes in the nursing industry. By joining these agencies you will be able to be a part of the huge number of nurses who have realized that it is possible for nurses to make a change to the health care industry when those changes are required. In fact nurses have a lot of power in this regard. As the members of the medical arena who form the backbone of the profession, they in actual fact have more power than they realize. Many nurses go even further than simply joining agencies through which they advocate for the rights of nurses. Many LPNs eventually run for political office in order to make changes at a governmental level. This is a very admirable goal to strive towards, although it will not suit everyone. There are a number of things that an advocate for the nursing profession can strive towards achieving. These include:
- Efforts aimed at achieving better working conditions for nurses
- Increased patient safety initiatives
- Efforts aimed at finding more funding for nursing scholarships
- Nurse recruitment and retention initiatives
- Running for political office
- Emailing, calling, or visiting your legislative representatives to discuss issues in health care that are important to you and to the profession
An invested interested in your profession as well as a deep passion for the above mentioned issues will b needed. Clearly not all LPNs are able to fulfill these roles, and it is therefore not a necessary requirement for being a successful LPN, but merely something well worth considering.
Tip 4: Be A Leader
Being a leader in nursing does not mean that you need to be in a formal leadership position. You can simply be the person within your LPN team who others look to for advice and guidance. Of course having natural leadership abilities in this regard will be extremely helpful, but many people believe that leadership skills can be taught and learned by those interested in making a difference through being leaders, even if it is on a small scale only. Some of the skills that are evident in leaders include:
- An ability to work and communicate with others
- An ability organize their work
- An ability to set priorities
In order to be identified as a leader in the health care facility where you are employed you can:
- Serve on facility committees
- Present yourself professionally
- Be visible in your workplace
Being visible in your workplace has positive connotations. Being visible for the wrong reasons, such as always being late, will not mark you out as a leader. You need to be visible for the right reasons in order to be considered as a leader in this regard.
Taking the lead can often be daunting. By taking the lead you are also accepting the responsibility for your own actions as well as for the actions of those nurses who choose to follow you. When being a leader as an LPN you need to be careful about overstepping your boundaries. You cannot give orders to fellow LPNs as this is something that only RNs and doctors are permitted to do. There will still be significant limitations on your job. The skill here is to become a leader within your scope of practice.
Tip 5: Set Goals
A nurse who has clear goals to strive towards will make a more successful LPN than one who does not. Setting goals can occur in two dimensions:
Many nurses feel that setting goals only refers to planning to study further in the nursing domain and become an RN or even something more. However this is not your only option when it comes to setting goals. You can also set goals that are specific to your work situation and that represent the options that you have as an LPN to advance in your career. There are a number of goals that you can set in this regard, including:
- Joining the professional organization
- Reading nursing journals
- Anything else which would interest you
The important thing here is that you do not need to set goals that you do not want to achieve. Neither do they need to advanced and major goals that require huge changes in your position. You can simply choose to something small that interests you. For example you could choose to complete a continuing education assignment in a topic that interests you even if you have already met all of your continuing education requirements for the current time period. In addition, if you are particularly ambitious, you can plan to go back to school and continue studying. Getting a bachelor’s degree will make you an RN, while a master’s degree in a certain area will make you an advanced nurse practitioner. These positions come with increased employment and promotion opportunities and you will find that the salary corresponds to the level of education required.
Whatever your goals are, it is important that you have some to strive towards as this will keep you focused on your job and ensure that you maintain the required level of excellence.
Other Useful Tips
There are also a number of other fairly useful tips to keep in mind in addition to the core tips that have already been mentioned:
- Behave professionally at all times: This should go without saying. A nurse that does not maintain the level of professionalism required for the profession will be a bad reflection not only on herself but also on the various other health care professionals with which she works on a daily basis.
- Show that you care about your patients and are deeply invested in their well-being This involves asking them how they are every time you enter the room and speaking with them in a pleasant and conversational manner, even when you are rushed. This will be greatly appreciated. It is important to be genuine when doing this.
- Take continuing education courses: This is a requirement in order to maintain your license, but you should also look on it as a way to be a successful LPN with many skills and a great deal of knowledge under your belt. Continuing education courses improve your expertise in the field.
- Practice conscientiousness in patient care: This is very similar to being detail oriented and ensuring that you attend to every aspect of the patient’s care carefully.
- Be confidential: You may not speak of what happens in the medical setting outside of that setting. This is both a legal as well as an ethical requirement that all nurses, whether LPNs or RNs, are expected to adhere to.
- Follow standard procedures: There are a number of set rules and procedures that you are expected to follow in nursing, no matter what the job you are doing is. Being aware of these standard procedures is your personal responsibility, as is following them to the letter.
The tips mentioned above are just some of the strategies that you can employ in order to be a successful LPN. Different sources will give you slightly different ideas. However those contained here are an excellent resource for an LPN looking for a general overview on how to be successful in her job. Success means different things for different people. In addition success is achieved in different ways for different people. Consequently any tips for being a successful LPN can be treated only as guidelines rather than as actual rules.