What is a Licensed Practical Nurse?

A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is a healthcare professional who provides basic nursing care under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) and physicians. LPNs typically work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics, and private homes, and are responsible for providing direct patient care, such as administering medications, changing dressings, and monitoring vital signs.

Licensed practical nurses also assist registered nurses and physicians with procedures, treatments, and diagnostic tests, as well as maintaining accurate patient records and communicating with other healthcare team members. To become an LPN, individuals must complete a state-approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN).

What does a Licensed Practical Nurse do?

A licensed practical nurse smiling with one of her young patients.

Licensed practical nurses play a crucial role in providing high-quality, patient-centered care. Their skills, expertise, and dedication are essential to the success of the healthcare system. They act as a bridge between patients and healthcare providers, ensuring that patients receive the best possible care.

Licensed practical nurses are often the first point of contact for patients and their families, and they play a key role in advocating for the needs and concerns of their patients. They are trained to recognize and report changes in patients' conditions, which can help prevent complications and ensure that patients receive appropriate care in a timely manner.

Duties and Responsibilities
Licensed practical nurses have a variety of duties and responsibilities, which may vary slightly depending on the specific setting in which they work. However, some common duties and responsibilities of LPNs include:

  • Patient Care: LPNs are responsible for providing basic bedside care to patients. They may help patients with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and eating. They may also take and record vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, and pulse. LPNs are trained to administer medications and may also perform certain medical procedures such as inserting and removing catheters, changing dressings, and providing wound care.
  • Record-Keeping: LPNs maintain accurate and detailed patient records, including medical histories, treatments, and progress notes. They are responsible for documenting changes in patients' conditions and communicating any concerns to the rest of the healthcare team.
  • Communication: LPNs need strong communication skills to interact with patients, families, and other healthcare professionals. They may be responsible for explaining treatments, procedures, and medications to patients and their families. They also need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively with doctors, registered nurses, and other members of the healthcare team to ensure that patients receive the best possible care.
  • Supervision: LPNs may supervise nursing assistants or other support staff, ensuring that they are providing high-quality care and following all necessary protocols. They may also delegate certain tasks to these support staff, such as taking vital signs or helping patients with activities of daily living.
  • Assessment: LPNs perform basic assessments of patients, such as measuring vital signs and monitoring for changes in condition. They may also assist with diagnostic tests and procedures, such as collecting blood samples or preparing patients for X-rays.
  • Education: LPNs may provide patient education on various topics such as medication management, wound care, and disease prevention. They may also provide education to families and caregivers on how to care for patients at home.
  • Support: LPNs provide emotional and psychological support to patients and their families, helping them cope with the challenges of illness or injury. They may also provide counseling on topics such as stress management and coping skills.
  • Collaboration: LPNs work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, registered nurses, and therapists, to provide coordinated and comprehensive care to patients. They may participate in interdisciplinary meetings to discuss patient care plans and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  • Safety: LPNs are responsible for ensuring the safety of patients, including preventing falls, infections, and other hazards. They may perform safety checks on patients and their environments to identify potential risks and take appropriate action.

Types of Licensed Practical Nurses
In the United States, there are generally two types of licensed practical nurses, which vary slightly by state:

  • Basic LPNs: These LPNs have completed a state-approved practical nursing program and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). They are licensed to provide basic nursing care under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) or physicians.
  • Advanced LPNs: Some states offer advanced LPN programs that allow LPNs to perform more advanced nursing tasks, such as administering medication, starting and maintaining IVs, and providing wound care. These LPNs may also be authorized to supervise other LPNs and nursing assistants. In some states, advanced LPNs are also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs).

Are you suited to be a licensed practical nurse?

Licensed practical nurses have distinct personalities. They tend to be social individuals, which means they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly. They excel at socializing, helping others, and teaching. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

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What is the workplace of a Licensed Practical Nurse like?

The workplace of a licensed practical nurse can vary depending on the specific setting in which they work. LPNs can be found working in hospitals, long-term care facilities, physician offices, home health agencies, schools, and other healthcare settings. In each of these settings, the LPN's role and responsibilities may differ slightly, but their goal is always to provide quality patient care.

In a hospital setting, LPNs may work in various departments such as medical/surgical, pediatrics, or the emergency department. They may be responsible for monitoring vital signs, administering medications, performing basic assessments, and assisting patients with activities of daily living. LPNs in hospitals also communicate with other healthcare professionals, including doctors and registered nurses, to ensure that patients receive the best possible care.

In a long-term care facility, LPNs provide care for patients who require ongoing medical attention and assistance with daily activities. They may help patients with bathing, dressing, and grooming, and they may also provide medication management, wound care, and other treatments. LPNs in long-term care facilities often work closely with nursing assistants and other support staff to ensure that patients receive comprehensive care.

In physician offices, LPNs may perform basic assessments, administer medications, and provide patient education. They may also assist with office procedures such as pap smears, immunizations, and wound care. LPNs in physician offices work closely with the doctor and other healthcare professionals to ensure that patients receive timely and appropriate care.

In a home health agency, LPNs may visit patients in their homes to provide care and monitor their health. They may help patients with medication management, wound care, and other treatments. LPNs in home health agencies often work independently, but they communicate regularly with the patient's doctor and other healthcare professionals to ensure that the patient's needs are being met.

Regardless of the setting, LPNs typically work full-time or part-time schedules that include evenings, weekends, and holidays. They may work in fast-paced and sometimes stressful environments, but they are trained to handle the demands of their job with professionalism and compassion. The workplace of an LPN requires strong communication skills, attention to detail, and a commitment to providing quality patient care.

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Licensed Practical Nurses are also known as:
LPN Licensed Vocational Nurse Vocational Nurse