What Is an LPN?
An LPN is otherwise known as a Licensed Practical Nurse. The position was developed during World War II when licensed nurses were in short supply, and it was taking too long to properly train RNs (Registered Nurses). An LPN can obtain licensing within 2 years, as opposed to the normal 4 years for an RN's license. They are capable of performing the vast majority of an RN's job just as skillfully, with a few exceptions. Today LPNs make up the vast majority of nursing staff in the United States and work in every facet of the health care industry. Though the job description officially claims that an LPN works an average of 40 hours a week, the consistent shortage of trained nursing staff means they must put in extra hours on night shifts and weekends as well. Typically a skilled LPN may be required to work between 50 and 60 hours a week, with a base pay rate plus overtime.
How Does an LPN Spend a Workday?
An LPN has a diverse number of responsibilities. Four days of 12-hour shifts are normal, with one or two of those working days taking place at night. An LPN starts the shift by reporting to the nurse's station. There she receives her daily assignment listing the patients who she is responsible for, providing bedside care until she is relieved by another nurse coming on the next shift. This care includes taking note of vital signs, taking blood samples, monitoring catheters, dressing and suturing wounds, as well as assisting in all the patients' daily needs, down to feeding, bathing and clothing them. LPNs may also be required to do administrative work, filling out health care and insurance forms for their patients. This may not seem like much, but many nurses are saddled with more than a dozen patients, who may be mentally dazed, hostile, or uncooperative. They also face dangers from contagious diseases as well as injury from mentally deranged patients. These are the daily duties of an LPN, but on top of this they may be required to perform any function as instructed by a physician, regardless of their current workload and responsibilities, no matter how demeaning or time consuming the task.
What Are LPNs Not Licensed to Do?
LPNs typically only have a 2-year Associate's Degree. They still have a huge course load, but this course load does not uniformly include such courses as hospital administration or comprehensive medications. This means two things. First, an LPN is not typically allowed to give official instructions or orders to those they might have seniority over such as health care technicians. Secondly, they are not allowed to administer or "push" any intravenous medication. They can establish intravenous feeds and attach bags of saline, nutrients, or plasma to these feeds. Only an RN or physician has the authority to push medications because of the potential danger of an inexperienced LPN harming a patient by pushing the wrong drug or the wrong dosage. RNs and physicians have the medical training allowing them to know whether or not they are using the right meds and the right dosages, thus decreasing the chances of mistakes.
- Photo Credit lpnadvocate.com
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