What You Need to Know About an LPN
Licensed Practical Nurse or LPN (also called Licensed Vocational Nurse or LVN in some states) is used to describe nurses who take care of people who are disabled, invalid and injured and a term used in the United States and Canada. They work under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or a doctor. Although LPNs’ work is very general and they can work in any field in the health care industry, there are some countries that allow LPNs to administer IVs and prescribed medicines to patients, and to give care to ventilator-dependent patients.
Its history can be traced back to self-taught people who practiced health care in homes in the past. They administer basic health care like giving baths and general housekeeping tasks like cooking and administering medication.
In 1945, 19 states and 1 territory in the United States passed licensure laws that require practical nurses to secure licenses before they can practice. By 1955, all the states follow the same requirement. Practical nurses (PN) already practicing during that time were given licenses without going through new training again.
The first formal training program for PNs started in 1892 at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in New York City. After a year, YWCA became the Ballard School of Practical Nursing that was financed by Lucinda Ballard. The course is for 3 months with classes that focus on child care, neo-natal care and elderly and disabled care. The program also includes nutrition, cooking and basic science and nursing.
There are several advantages in becoming LPNs. It only takes a year to finish the program. Therefore, individuals can start and begin earning money.
According to statistics, there are approximately 750,000 LPNs working in the United States in 2008. They work in hospitals, nursing care facilities, hospices or even lived-in health care service providers.
Licensed practical nurses care for patients in a lot of ways. The following are the tasks LPNs do.
- They provide essential beside care for patients.
- They measure and record the patient’s vital signs (i.e. height, weight, blood pressure, temperature, respiratory and heart rate).
- They gather information from patients like medical history, immunizations and current dispositions.
- They help in filling up forms for health insurance forms and other documents needed.
- They dress and disinfect wounds.
- They administer injections and enemas.
- They monitor catheters.
- They provide massages or give alcohol rubs.
- They assist in routing laboratory tests.
- They gather samples for testing.
- They record the patient’s food and liquid intake.
- They monitor the patient’s negative reactions to treatments or meditation.
- They share the patient’s information to the physician in-change and the registered nurse on duty.
- They sometimes assist doctors and RNs in some procedures and tests.
- They maintain the patient’s personal hygiene by giving baths and dressing them.
- They instruct family members in proper care for the patient.
- For invalid patients, they assist them in standing, walking or moving in beds, and eating.
- Veteran LPNs even supervise nursing assistants and other LPNs.
In the United States, community colleges and vocational or technical schools offer LPN or LVN programs. It usually takes about a year to get an LPN degree and in order to be eligible to have an license, students must complete an accredited and state-approved training program. There are some LPN programs that are already part of the curriculum in high school. Applicants needed to have a high school diploma or its equivalent in order to be accepted to the program. However, in the case of applicants that already took some classes related to LPN taken in high school, they can just continue on with the training program in the community colleges or vocational or technical schools provided they have a copy of their Transcript of Records on-hand.
LPN classes are delivered in two ways: classroom study and supervised clinical practice. Classroom study includes:
- Basic Nursing Concepts
- Patient Care
- Human Anatomy
- Human Physiology
- Medical-Surgical Nursing
- Pediatrics Nursing
- Obstetrics Nursing
- First Aid
Supervised clinical practice takes place in health care facilities such as hospitals and other areas of health care service. LPN license can be obtained after passing the National Council Licensure Examination – Practical Nurse or NCLEX-PN. This licensing exam is developed and administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. There are some countries that require continues training for LPNs throughout their career to be updated in knowledge and practice.