Find out how you can get trained for this career field
Practical nurses play an important role in the healthcare field. They usually work in hospitals and long-term care facilities where they provide patients with basic care throughout the day. Practical nurses, or LPN’s, are part of a larger nursing team which usually includes registered nurses and nursing assistants.
If you are considering becoming a practical nurse, it’s a good idea to learn more about the field. What does a typical day look like for a practical nurse? What kinds of responsibilities and tasks do practical nurses do on the job? To find out, read this run-down of a “day in the life of a practical nurse.”
The day begins
When you first arrive for your shift, you will receive the list of patients that you are going to care for that day. You will also get the reports from the LPN who is just finishing up the shift before you. These reports are very important so that you know what has been done and what your patients need.
Depending on where you work, you will most likely report to a Registered Nurse (RN). There may also be nursing assistants (LNAs or CNAs) who are assigned to your healthcare team. The CNAs may work closely with you, giving you additional information on the patients and assisting with basic care needs.
Once you have looked at your assignments, it’s time to start taking care of your patients. Usually you begin by greeting your first patient and asking them how they are feeling. You will take their vital signs to see if anything has changed. Next you might need to check on what the patient has had to eat and drink, and to check their output of fluids as well.
You will go from room to room assisting patients in this way. Every patient will have different needs. Depending on the patients’ health conditions, other tasks might include:
- Administering medication
- Changing wound dressings
- Caring for patients with catheters
- Caring for patients on ventilators or with tracheostomy tubes
- Caring for patients on nasogastric tubes
- Collecting specimens for testing
- Helping feed patients who have trouble feeding themselves
- Helping a patient with personal hygiene if needed
- Assisting patients with special requests they may have
- Running a blood check for patients with diabetes
- Filling out lab slips
- Talking with concerned family members
- Reporting health concerns to the head nurse
- Responding to emergencies
Documentation and charting
During each patient visit, it is extremely important to document what you have done for the patient. Good documentation is essential. It’s the only way that the next caregiver knows for sure what has happened. The head nurse will be counting on you to document everything carefully, and you don’t want to keep your head nurse waiting for this information.
Prioritizing a busy day
Most practical nurses will agree that their days are busy. Sometimes your days will be so busy that you will need to prioritize what needs to be done right away and set aside other tasks that can wait a little longer. Responding to patients’ needs is never predictable. You might be all set to deliver medication to one patient when an emergency arises with another patient. For this reason, practical nurses have to be flexible and ready to change their plans on a moment’s notice. As you gain more and more experience in your field, this will get easier for you. For more information on prioritizing, see 5 Tips Every Nursing Professional Should Remember.
Communicating with your team
The entire healthcare team at your facility may include doctors, specialists, respiratory therapists, sonographers, x-ray technicians, pharmacists, RNs, practical nurses, and nursing assistants. As a practical nurse, it is important to remember that you are part of this larger team. You want to do your part of your job as well as you can. You want to communicate clearly so that others can do their jobs too. As you go off your shift, you want to be sure that the next shift knows what to do.
As a practical nurse, you are there to help patients when they are their most needy. Practical nursing is an honorable field that shows your commitment and dedication to the health and wellness of others. For more information about this field, try 6 FAQs about Becoming a Practical Nurse. If you decide to get training in this field, you will have a career that will make you feel proud. There is no doubt about it: nurses are heroes!
The Harris Casel Institute provides a Practical Nurse training program at our campus in Melbourne, Florida. Find out more about our school by contacting us online.