There are many different types of nurses, and the designation and responsibilities of the nurse will often be an indication of the level of training, certification and licensure they have completed. People rely on a licensed practical nurse, or an LPN, to deliver compassionate health care to patients in different locations other than hospitals.
It is true that LPN responsibilities are more in a hospital setting simply by its very nature and size. Often LPN duties are more advanced in hospitals than in some other settings, although with the increase in small clinics and more medical procedures being performed there, this is changing. The type of setting or treatment required will often determine the responsibilities of the LPN, but many times LPNs have their own assignments and a registered nurse does the few things that the LPN isn’t allowed to do in their scope of practice.
Working in an emergency setting, orthopedic, geriatric or pediatric department will all require different responsibilities for the LPN. The age of the patient will also play a role in the responsibilities they perform.
There are some responsibilities that an LPN may not perform, depending on the state they live in. While one LPN may be allowed to administer intravenous medications in one state, they may not be allowed this under their scope of practice in another state.
On doing your research you can look at the pros and cons of each specialty. Once you have decided on the one you are interested in, you can contact the certification board and start moving toward a nursing career.
Responsibilities Can Include Supervising Others
Sometimes, very capable and skilled LPNs will supervise other health care professionals like nursing aides who provide general care and monitoring of patients. An LPN nurse-in-charge will manage a team of nursing staff, directing them to observe and chart patients’ vital signs and assisting them with feeding and personal hygiene. They also have administrative duties like keeping patient records up to date, but the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) identified vital signs and medication administration as the most important areas of responsibility for the LPN. LPN responsibilities are made up of basic duties like:
- personal care
- checking on vital signs
- technical duties like blood tests and administering injections
- administrative duties like taking the case history of patients
Home Health Care Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of a LPN are always conducted under the guidance of doctors or a registered nurse, although in the home care nursing situation they often work on their own, reporting their findings to more senior medical staff. Home health care is an area of LPN nursing that is growing in popularity because more and more old folk as well as those recovering long term from surgery prefer to stay at home rather than be admitted to a nursing home. The close working relationship in the home healthcare situation often includes companionship in the LPNs scope of practice. On top of that LPN responsibilities will include administrative duties as well, and the LPN may be required to assist patients with insurance forms for instance.
LPN responsibilities around home health care concentrate on making the patient as comfortable as possible and attending to all their medical needs. The role of the LPN is often extended to companionship, and this makes sense, as the licensed practical nurse spends many hours around the bedridden patient.
Other options for LPNs include working in eye or dental institutions, occupational health in industrial health settings and maternity wards for instance.
Occupational Health Responsibilities
Apart from hospitals, LPNs also work in clinics, occupational health environments, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, retirement centers and home care situations, delivering the highest level of clinical standards. With occupational health nursing, the LPN works for companies, providing health care to the employees of that company, particularly when the job is of a dangerous nature, like mining or shipping. The responsibilities of the nurse will include doing first aid, enlisting more medical care when needed and also filling out accident reports. Many times their responsibilities will be of a counseling nature and they will keep workers informed of the latest health issues as well as keeping them aware of health risks in the workplace.
Proper Training Needed to Perform Range of Responsibilities
In order to become an LPN who can effectively perform the full range of responsibilities, it is necessary to complete anything from eighteen months to two years of diploma training at an accredited nursing college. Coursework will include both theoretical as well as practical training, needing to complete between 250 and 500 hours of clinical experience in a medical facility. You will not be required to know which area you want to specialize in before you commence a licensed practical nursing program, but it can be helpful if you do, because then you can actually focus your studies around meeting your long term nursing career goals and to meet your responsibilities.
The licensed practical nurse is dedicated to customer services, and most LPNs who love nursing and want it to become a lifelong career want to advance beyond LPN, and a prerequisite to being an LPN is to want to achieve a Bachelor of Science in Nursing which is necessary to enjoy a well paying nursing job and to go on and become a registered nurse. The LPN is constantly looking at ways at improving the quality of life for patients who are largely immobilized because of an illness, injury or disability. A LPN takes orders from a registered nurse or physician, mostly working alongside other medical staff. They can also be scrub nurses who assist surgeons in the operating room.
To become qualified as a Licensed Practical Nurse, you are required to first pass state-approved programs. These programs are available at most of the vocational colleges, private nursing schools, technical colleges and community schools where subjects include health promotion, chemistry, biology, physiology, anatomy and patient care. LPNs are required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN exam), which is a computerized adaptive test which tests a candidates knowledge and skills to carry out safe and effective nursing. Licensed practical nurses work directly with patients, feeding, bathing, taking vital signs, monitoring, lifting, administering medications, attending to wounds etc.
In theater, their responsibility will include tasks like preparing and arranging sterile instruments. During the operation, the LPN will assist the surgeon by handing him or her the correct instruments throughout the procedure. Apart from that they will give the patient injections, apply dressings, give alcohol rubs and massages, apply ice packs and insert catheters. After surgery, many patients are put onto drips, and the responsibility of the LPN includes regulating IV drips. They have to keep track of the level of IV solution and also change the IV when required. They will also need to watch over oxygen supplies, epidural infusions, catheters and fluid bags, and dispose of used medical accessories like needles and syringes.
All of us have been in an emergency room and seen how hectic it is. Once surgery is over, LPN responsibilities include offering critical support to doctors, leaving the surgeon to attend fully to the patient while they clean and dress wounds and apply bandages. When the patient is being prepared for a particular examination, they help to prepare patients, sometimes giving them certain liquids while also performing routine laboratory tests. In some states they are permitted to administer prescribed medications or start intravenous fluids, but in other states, their scope of practice would not include this.
Responsibilities in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Many LPNs look for specialized training to be a maternity nurse, and for specialization, you need to take continuing education units, known as CEUs. Most of your training is received on the job, but there are many courses that are geared towards maternal health and medicine.
Some of the responsibilities of an LPN nurse will include:
- providing maternity care to pregnant women, and even after childbirth
- monitoring labor problems while checking cervix dilation and contractions
- monitoring vital signs like pulse rate and blood pressure
- assisting gynecologists in their monitoring of pregnant women and the newborn baby
The Licensed Professional Nurse play an important role in Neonatal Intensive Care Units where they perform practical duties which do not require the presence of a registered nurse.
Responsibilities are Sometimes of an Administrative Nature
In addition to clinical tasks, LPNs provide a number of clerical or administrative services. This is particularly true when they work in general practitioner’s offices. They make appointments, arranging dates for tests, answer phones and keep records of all patients, providing assistance with the filling in of forms and providing information on medical insurance.
Responsibility Includes Extended Working Hours
Although LPN responsibilities may include an eight-hour shift, it often happens that when there is a shortage of staff the LPN’s shift can be extended to 10 or 12 hours. Working hours can include night shifts or weekend shifts and the LPN can be called upon to fill any shift any time. It often happens that day shifts are reserved for LPNs for have been working in the system a bit longer, and the newer graduates get the night shifts. Every state has a Board of Nursing and it can help to look up the Nurse Practice Act for your state and read it and understand what responsibilities the LPN has in each state as well as what they can and cannot do.
LPN responsibilities and duties include all aspects of basic nursing care. It is a pretty responsible job and the reason for this is that they are deemed responsible enough to fill in for registered nurses and doctors who are called away for different reasons. Just some of the many responsibilities they deal with day to day are:
Monitoring Vital Signs and Medication Charts
All patients, particularly in a hospital, clinic or nursing home setting will have different medication and treatment schedules and the licensed practical nurse will be monitor the patient’s medications as well as keep monitoring the patient’s blood pressure and other vitals. If there is reason for alarm the LPN will alert a physician.
Preparing Patients For Procedures
Life in a clinic or nursing home is extremely busy with all kinds of medical treatments and procedures being performed, and part of LPN responsibilities is to help prepare patients who have to undergo certain tests or who are undergoing surgery. Part of the preparation includes providing the patients on what to expect and how they will feel. The LPN will administer pre – procedure medication and see to it that the patient is dressed in the standard theater or examination apparel.
A Licensed Practical Nurse or LPN has already completed a 2 year diploma course and wherever they choose to work, their basic task is to see to the comfort of their patients, taking quite a bit of strain away from physicians and registered nurses as they are capable of many nursing tasks. It is true that LPN responsibilities include some mundane tasks, but their scope of practice can change depending on where they work. Some work full time in hospitals while others join home-care agencies and work flexible hours, but their responsibilities make them indispensable in the medical world where their many tasks and duties ensure the smooth running of a medical facility.
The health care system is continuously evolving and growing, and more than ever, licensed practical nurses need to be well trained in order to keep up with the changes. LPN training programs are comprehensive with both theory and clinical classes, equipping LPNs with all the knowledge and skills to practice in different settings with confidence. Anyone considering a career as a licensed practical nurse should be caring and well balanced in nature, simply because their job can be stressful as well as emotionally draining as they work with critically ill or injured patients.