LPN Job Description

A Licensed Practical Nurse’s Career

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Licensed practical nurse

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The licensed practical nurse (LPN) is a fully certified healthcare professional that carries much of the responsibility for basic patient care. They work under the supervision of physicians and registered nurses to provide services in a wide range of healthcare settings including public and private hospitals, doctor’s offices, small clinics, and community care facilities.

In Texas and California LPNs are known as LVNs (licensed vocational nurses). Both names refer to the same profession and require the same level of training.

The LPN’s Job Outlook

The healthcare industry is one of the safest fields to be in as it is rarely impacted by economic fluctuations. The need for healthcare services is ongoing, and in fact, as the population ages, the overall demand for healthcare is expected to increase.

In many cases, however, healthcare facilities are looking for ways to provide the greatest service at the lowest cost – and this is where the LPN really comes into play. Salaries of LPNs are quite a bit lower than those of other healthcare professionals, and this cuts overall healthcare costs.

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In nearly every healthcare setting – from hospitals and physicians’ offices to nursing homes and assisted living centers – employment of LPNs is on the rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of licensed practical/vocational nurses is expected to increase by 22 percent by the year 2020. This is significantly faster than the average in all occupations.

A Day in the Life of a Licensed Practical Nurse

Since LPNs work in such a wide variety of settings, their daily activities vary quite a bit from one facility to the next. Wherever they work though, the LPN is busy, busy, busy from the beginning of their shift till the time they clock out. The LPN is typically on her feet all day, and only takes a breather when there’s a few spare minutes.

A typical shift for an LPN is eight full hours whether she works a day or night shift. While this is the standard, many nurses end up pulling shifts up to 12 hours at a time when workloads are especially heavy or the healthcare facility is short staffed. And while it might seem a little easier or more relaxed to work on the night shift, that’s rarely the case, as many patients become restless, are in pain, or need help or care throughout the night.

Whether the LPN is working a day or a night shift, she’ll begin by checking in with the nurse from the previous shift. She’ll find out how the patients are doing so that she can anticipate their potential needs over the next eight hours, including any medications or unique care that each one might require. She will also look over the doctor’s reports for each patient so that she is fully up to date with each case. \

Some patients may be scheduled for treatment, while others may be due for dressing changes or medication doses, so as she begins her shift, the LPN prepares a treatment sheet for each and every patient. If a patient is scheduled to meet with a specialist or undergo treatment, the nurse will need to plan ahead and have them at their appointment on time. Her treatment sheets are a way of planning out the shift so that each patient receives attention at the right time.

Once the LPN has prepped for her shift, she’ll begin making her rounds. Her first patient may be resting comfortably, so the LPN will simply check vital signs like blood pressure, body temperature, heartbeat, and respiration. If any test samples are needed, she may collect them before moving on to the next patient.

Her next patient may have an external wound from a recent surgery. The LPN will need to change the dressings and make sure that the wound is clean and healing properly. A patient who has spent an extended time in bed may be developing bedsores, and the LPN will need to treat the wounds and possibly turn the patient to relieve the pressure spots. She often is called upon to give body rubs or massage as patients become sore and muscles grow tense over the duration of their bed rest.

Many patients will need sanitary care as well, as not all will be able to maintain their personal hygiene. She will need to bathe them, dress them, and change bedding regularly to keep patients clean and fresh. The LPN will also monitor each patient’s food and liquid intake and output. She’ll make sure that each one is being properly nourished and hydrated, and she’ll monitor catheters and change waste bags when necessary.

See also the job descriptions for other kinds of nurses:

Registered Nurse         Nurse Practitioner

As she visits with each patient, the LPN will take note of each one’s health condition. She will record her findings on their charts and report any changes to their primary healthcare provider. When patients are ready to go home, the LPN might talk with family members about home care including medications, diet and follow-up visits or care.

But the work is not over once all her patients have been tended to. Before the end of her shift, the LPN may need to put in an hour or two doing administrative tasks like filling out insurance form and preparing patient reports for the next shift.

Some Handy Skills

An LPN needs to be extremely attentive to oral and written communications. She will need to follow instructions given at the beginning of each shift regarding care, medication, cleaning and more. In addition, she’ll need to be precise in her own record keeping so shift transfers are smooth and excellent patient care is maintained.

She will need to be very well organized in her time management, and make sure that each patient arrives for treatment or tests on time. At the same time, she’ll need to be personable and kind as she interacts with each patient. No matter how busy she gets, she must remember that patients are depending on her for comfort, reassurance and answers to any questions they might have.

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