Things to Know about Becoming a Practical Nurse | Harris Casel Institute Melbourne FL
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Things to Know about Becoming a Practical Nurse

Group photo of the December 2017 graduating class of Practical Nursing students taken at their school, Harris Casel Institute in Melbourne, Florida.
Congratulations to the graduates from our Practical Nursing Program, December 2017.
We are incredibly proud of all of you!

Find out if this is the right path into healthcare for you

You were always the friend ready with a Band-Aid and hug when someone fell on the playground. You paid attention in science class because you wanted to learn how many bones are in the body and how its systems work. You are compassionate and take time to check in on an elderly neighbor. As you think about your future, you keep coming around to the idea of working in healthcare, but you also want to jump in as quickly as possible. Becoming a practical nurse might be a great entry point for you!

What does a licensed practical nurse do?

Individual state laws govern what licensed practical nurses (LPN) are allowed to do. For example, in some states, they must be supervised by registered nurses while in others, experienced LPNs may manage LPNs and other healthcare professionals that aren't required to be licensed. Also, in some states, LPNs may administer IVs and medications, but in others, they are not permitted to do so.

In general, licensed practical nurses provide basic patient care. Your days will be busy and active – this role is certainly not a “desk job!” Your daily tasks may vary but could include duties such as the following:

  • Monitor vital signs such as heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure.
  • Maintain patient health record.
  • Listen to patient concerns and talk to patients about the care they are giving to them.
  • Communicate with registered nurses and possibly physicians regarding patient status or concerns.
  • Change wound and incision bandages.
  • Assist patients with daily functions such as getting dressed, eating and bathing.

Depending on the state in which they are working, licensed practical nurses may also conduct routine laboratory tests, collect test samples, and assist registered nurses in educating patients and their family members on specific care routines relative to their illness and recovery. They may also assist in delivery rooms and nurseries to care for newborns.

What types of qualities and skills are needed for practical nursing work?

It's always good to remember that practical nurses do take care of medical needs, but those needs are associated with people who are often in the midst of stressful, emotional and difficult situations. 

Therefore, in addition to clinical skills and knowledge, it is helpful to develop qualities such as compassion, empathy, and patience. Because of the degree of responsibility that comes with caring for patients, being detailed-oriented is essential to ensure high-quality, accurate care at all times. You will also be relaying information to the patient, family members, your supervisors, physicians, and other members of the health-care team. Excellent communication skills are a must as is physical stamina since you will be on the move throughout your shift rather than sitting at a desk.

What does it take to become a practical nurse?

All licensed practical nurses must complete an educational training program

to work in the nursing profession. Training is generally a combination of classroom instruction, laboratory experience and a supervised clinical practicum to gain hands-on, real-world experience. Practical nurse training programs take approximately one year to complete.

In the classroom, a wide-range of topics are covered, including the role of practical nurses, biology, pharmacology, infection control, medical terminology, ethical and legal aspects of practical nursing, and human growth and development. 

Practicums can include working with registered nurses, licensed physicians and other health-care professionals to use the knowledge and hone the skills gained in the classroom. Experience and insight into the daily functions of a particular health-care setting, such as a nursing home or hospital, are important skills that can be then carried into the field.

After completing a practical nurse program, all states require students to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). For more detail about practical nursing you can visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

Where do practical nurses work?

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm (visited December 03, 2017).

Have you always pictured yourself taking care of senior citizens? Do you think you would like the pace of a small physician's office? Or, maybe you see yourself working on a floor in a hospital. All of these are options as a licensed practical nurse. However, in 2016, according to the Occupational Handbook of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of LPNs (38%) work in nursing and residential care facilities. The breakdown is in the accompanying pie chart.

What kind of schedules do practical nurses work?

If you're looking for a non-traditional work schedule, this might be a good career path to consider. Maybe you need to work nights or weekends due to family responsibilities. Maybe you don't mind working the occasional holiday. Maybe you would like to work fewer days, but longer shifts. These may all be possible as an LPN.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook also reported that most licensed practical nurses work full-time while “1 in 5 worked part-time in 2016.”

What is the job outlook for practical nurses?

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, there were 724,500 practical nursing jobs in the United States in 2016. It also projects that there will be an additional 88,600 jobs between 2016 and 2026, which is a 12% growth rate. The Handbook lists this projected growth rate as “faster than average.” This is positive news and points toward jobs being available for those currently training to become practical nurses or looking to do so in the near future.

We hope this article has given you the information you need to make your decision about whether becoming a licensed practical nurse is the right choice for you at this point in your life. Good luck!

This article is part of the Harris Casel Institute’s weekly blog. We conveniently offer career training programs at our campus in Melbourne, FL. For more information, please contact us online!