A licensed practical nurse is a type of nurse who is trained to provide basic patient care, but who has less training than a registered nurse. These professionals are important links between patients and registered nurses and physicians. They provide comfort, basic services, patient monitoring, and help patients understand what care they are being given and record their health concerns and vitals.
To become a licensed practical nurse, a person must go through a training program but not earn a degree. They are nationally certified and licensed by each state. The care that licensed practical nurses provide in hospitals, medical centers, nursing homes, and even in patient homes should be of the best quality and is important in promoting wellness, preventing infections, and helping patients feel as comfortable as possible.
What is a Licensed Practical Nurse?
A licensed practical nurse is a nurse with a certain level of training and certification. These health professionals are licensed by the states in which they practice. In some states the equivalent certification refers to the nurses as licensed vocational nurses. LPNs and LVNs have more education and training than certified nursing assistants, but less than registered nurses, or RNs.
LPNs provide basic nursing care for patients and work under the supervision or registered nurses, nurse practitioners, or physicians. The educational program that must be completed to become an LPN typically takes a year to complete and results in a diploma or certificate, not a degree. They also must complete and pass the National Council Licensure Examination in order to become certified. Some LPNs get further certifications in specialties like geriatrics or infusion and intravenous therapy.
What Do Licensed Practical Nurses Do?
A licensed practical or vocational nurse is a professional who provides basic care for patients. They are crucial in minimizing pain, increasing mobility, improving comfort, and generally improving overall care for patients in a variety of medical settings. The exact duties of an LPN depend on where they work, other team members available, and what patients need. Some examples of what LPNs typically do for patients include:
- Taking patients vital signs, like heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure.
- Monitoring patients’ overall health.
- Providing basic medical care, such as changing catheters or changing dressings and bandages.
- Assisting patients with basic care, including moving, dressing, and bathing.
- Listening to patients and taking notes on how they feel or what they need.
- Communicating with doctors and registered nurses about patient care.
- Explaining treatments, procedures, and medications to patients.
- Administering or organize medications (depending on the licensing state).
- Providing basic comfort and compassion.
- Cleaning and organizing equipment.
- Setting up equipment and supplies for doctors and nurses.
Where Do LPNs Work
Licensed practical nurses may work in any medical setting, but the majority of these professionals are employed in residential settings, specifically nursing homes. Here they are crucial in providing ongoing care for residents and making sure they are comfortable. The next most common place for an LPN to be employed is in hospitals, where they provide similar care but often for more short-term patients. Other settings in which LPNs work include physician offices and government agencies and medical centers.
In addition to medical settings, LPNs may work in patients’ homes. In-home skilled nursing care can be expensive, but some patients need that care. It may be all that prevents a person from leaving home and living in a nursing home or other residential facility. For many in-home patients, the expertise of an LPN is adequate and is likely to be less costly than the services of a registered nurse.
Who Can Benefit from LPNs?
The type of care that LPNs provide is broad and general, so any type of patient may benefit from receiving services from these nurses. Some of the types of patients who most often benefit from LPN care include those living in nursing and assisted living homes. These are long-term residents who need a lot of monitoring and care. In nursing homes in particular, patients cannot care for themselves and rely on the LPNs to help them perform daily tasks and remain in relative comfort.
Patients in hospitals, who may only be there for a short period, can also benefit from the care of LPNs. They may have varying degrees of independence while in the hospital and LPNs are there to provide any level of basic care they need, from communicating with doctors about pain and other symptoms to helping patients move to get into more comfortable positions.
The Importance of Licensed Practical Nurses
LPNs have an important role to play in healthcare. As with other types of nurses, they are critical for promoting health and wellness through caring for patients, providing preventative measures, and educating patients, their families, and the public. LPNs are also critical for minimizing infection risks, especially in hospitals. They keep patients and medical equipment clean to prevent the spread of the kinds of infections that can be so deadly in these settings.
While any type of nurse can provide these benefits to health and well-being in patients, LPNs play a particularly important role in medicine today. There is a shortage in nurses and because it takes a longer time in school to become a registered nurse, more people interested in the profession are turning to the shorter programs that certify LPNs.
Having this quicker option to get into nursing allows for more trained nurses in healthcare settings, providing care, comfort, and patient safety. While registered nurses are needed for more complicated procedures and tasks, LPNs can provide the kind of bedside care that really makes patients feel more comfortable and less scared.
Quality Care from Licensed Practical Nurses
Patients who most often receive the care of LPNs are those in nursing homes or who need in-home care. These patients are vulnerable and rely heavily on the care these professionals provide. Before using the services of an LPN, it is important to check credentials, licensing, and experience to make sure he or she is qualified. References are also a good idea to determine if an LPN has provided excellent care to patients in the past. It is important for the loved ones of patients who rely on these nurses to monitor the quality of care and take steps to make improvements if care is not adequate.
Licensed practical nurses are dedicated and trained professionals who provide basic and much-needed care and services to some of the most vulnerable, dependent, and ill patients. The care they provide brings comfort and peace of mind if it is of the best quality. If you or a loved one is receiving care from an LPN, be aware of how the care is provided and monitor the care over the long-term to be sure it remains high.