Working as a Licensed Practical Nurse

Role of an LPN

LPN stands for licensed practical nurse. They are also known as licensed vocational nurses in some states of the U.S. Each state has a separate code of conduct for the practical nurses, indicating their functionality and roles they are allowed to perform. Some of the duties that are common to all the LPNs are:

  • Taking the patient’s vital signs such as respiration, temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.
  • Assisting the senior doctors or nurses in diagnostic procedures.
  • Providing the basic bedside care like dressing wounds, changing bandages, inserting catheters, and giving injections.
  • Keeping a check on the eating habits of the patients and how many times they are using the washroom.
  • Collecting the urine and samples to perform various tests.
  • Performing CPR in emergencies.
  • Administering the medications.
  • Assembling the equipment like gastrostomy tubes, catheters, and oxygen supplies.
  • Caring for the patients on ventilators or with tracheostomy tubes.
  • Answering the patients’ queries over the phone.
  • Calling the physician, if required.

In some states, LPNs are allowed to:

  • Taking verbal orders from the MD (Doctor of Medicine).
  • Starting, monitoring, or discontinuing the intravenous catheters or the intravenous fluids.

LPN Work Settings

These are the places where LPNs are employed most of the times.

  • Hospital
    Here, LPNs take care of the patients who are ill or have undergone major surgery. These professionals work under the supervision of an RN or a doctor. The work schedule depends on the hospital, but generally, they have 12-hour shifts with weekends off.
  • Rehabilitation
    The patients who have undergone serious surgery are admitted into the rehabilitation centers so that they can recover quickly. At this time, their body is weak, and they are unable to perform the majority of tasks on their own. Licensed practical nurses help them with the daily activities.
  • Nursing Home
    The practical nurses may work as an in-charge of the patient care in this setting. The work schedule depends upon the facility, but usually, the shift is of 12 hours with the alternate weekend off and rotating shifts. Some long-term care facilities have 8 hours shift.
  • Home Care
    Some patients, who do not want to get admitted in the hospital, need a health care provider who can take care of and assist them at home. The type of work and timings would depend on the client. Some patients require around the clock care, whereas others may require the nurses to do a routine check up and make sure that the medical plan is continuing.
  • School
    The students in the school often develop the minor illness like sore throats, vomiting, or lice. The schools appoint LPNs to take care of them, and most of them get a nursing room for that purpose.
  • Medical Office or Urgent Care Clinic
    These are the private clinics where the LPNs perform the task of measuring vital signs and weight and checking medication history. The working hours of an LPN depend on the office; they are employed at.

LPN Salary by State

State Total Employment Average Hourly Wage Average Annual Salary
Alabama 14,200 $17.36 $36,100
Alaska 520 $26.16 $54,400
Arizona 5,500 $24.03 $49,970
Arkansas 11,650 $17.49 $36,370
California 65,250 $24.94 $51,870
Colorado 5,330 $22.85 $47,530
Connecticut 8,630 $26.74 $55,630
Delaware 1,820 $23.75 $49,410
Florida 43,540 $20.35 $42,320
Georgia 25,360 $18.66 $38,820
Hawaii 1,180 $22.51 $46,820
Idaho 2,560 $19.17 $39,870
Illinois 20,300 $22.69 $47,190
Indiana 16,890 $19.58 $40,730
Iowa 4,420 $19.10 $39,730
Kansas 7,090 $19.25 $40,040
Kentucky 10,850 $18.84 $39,180
Louisiana 11,216 $18.25 $37,960
Maine 1,300 $20.39 $42,410
Maryland 11,640 $24.59 $51,140
Massachusetts 16,190 $26.04 $54,160
Michigan 14,490 $21.89 $45,530
Minnesota 17,730 $20.40 $42,440
Mississippi 8,830 $17.66 $36,730
Missouri 15,920 $18.45 $38,380
Montana 2,510 $18.98 $39,490
Nebraska 5,300 $19.09 $39,710
Nevada 2,340 $25.31 $52,630
New Hampshire 2,160 $22.98 $47,800
New Jersey 15,310 $25.62 $53,300
New Mexico 2,150 $22.48 $46,760
New York 47,380 $22.36 $46,500
North Carolina 16,330 $20.16 $41,940
North Dakota 2,920 $19.83 $41,250
Ohio 40,160 $19.74 $41,060
Oklahoma 11,610 $18.55 $38,590
Oregon 2,910 $23.63 $49,160
Pennsylvania 37,470 $21.43 $44,570
Rhode Island 1,030 $26.55 $55,230
South Carolina 9,090 $18.95 $39,410
South Dakota 1,850 $17.44 $36,270
Tennessee 22,490 $17.92 $37,270
Texas 69,220 $21.70 $45,130
Utah 1,980 $20.73 $43,110
Vermont 1,450 $22.03 $45,830
Virginia 21,410 $19.80 $41,190
Washington 7,490 $24.03 $49,980
West Virginia 6,570 $17.16 $35,680
Wisconsin 8,480 $20.74 $43,140
Wyoming 770 $21.19 $44,080

Information Source: The Bureau of Labor Statictics (as of May 2015)

The analysis of the above table reveals that Connecticut, Rhode Island, Alaska, Massachusetts, and New Jersey were the top-paying states of the USA which paid $55,630, $55,230, $54,400, $54,160, and $53,300 per annum, respectively.

LPN Areas of Practice

LPNs get opportunities to practice in several departments. The various LPN careers are as follows:

  • Pediatrics: Those nurses who specialize in this field takes care of the newborns and patients up to the age of 18.
  • Neonatal: Neonatal nurses look after the newborn sick or premature babies.
  • Gerontology Nurse: These are the nurses who care for the elderly patients and their needs.
  • Emergency Room: As the name suggests, this unit treats the patients who are in a very serious condition after an accident or a heart attack. The nurses bring the patients back to a stable condition and then, the patients are shifted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
  • Trauma ICU: This unit cares for the patients who have undergone an accident. It can be a car accident, any natural calamity, or a building collapse.
  • Oncology: Oncology nurses treat patients who are suffering from cancer. They assist the patients in chemotherapy sessions and treat the pain.
  • Burn Unit: This unit takes care of the patients who have suffered a serious burn with the major portion of the body destroyed by the fire or heat. These nurses are expert in dressing, monitoring for sepsis, and pain management.
  • Rehabilitation Center: The nurses work with the patients to recover their skills that were lost during the illness. They work in coordination with the occupational, speech, and physical therapists.
  • Cardiac ICU: The patients who have undergone a heart surgery are treated in the cardiac ICU.
  • Labor and Delivery: This department takes care of the expecting women before, during, and after the delivery. The newborns are also looked after by the nurses in this department.

Finding Your LPN Job

Every individual has an interest in a particular field. The nurses must figure out the department or the role they want to take up. Next, find out the hospitals or places where the specific unit is present. For example, if the nurse desires to work in a Burn Unit, s/he should search out all the hospitals in the nearby locality that have this unit. Burn units are mostly found in the hospitals having a designation of Level 3 Trauma Center. The candidates can get the required information through the official website of the facility.

Completing the LPN Job Application

The majority of the job applications are accepted online. But, still, there are some facilities that need the applicants to submit the application offline. Follow the below-given instructions while filling the application (offline or online):

  • Employment History: Here, you have to provide the name of the last employer, address, and phone number.
  • Education History: You are also required to submit the address, name, and phone number of the nursing college from where you completed your graduation.
  • Test Preparation: Many hospitals require you to pass an entrance Math test to get the job. Be prepared for the questions about medication names and purposes, simple ratios, and IV drip conversions. Ask the complete syllabus before going for the test and attempt it carefully.
  • Follow Instructions: The online application must be filled completely leaving no blank spaces. The candidates must cross-check the spellings and grammatical mistakes. Following all the instructions make a good impression on the employers.
  • License Information: The practical nurses should be aware of the date of the online test along with the state, in which, it is going to be held. Not all the schools ask you to submit the license since they check it online by entering your details. If you want to work in some other state, check the procedure.
  • Submission: You should carefully check all the details once again before submitting the application.

LPN Interview

While going for a LPN job interview, the candidate must know details of the organization- what does it basically do, the care they specialize in, how many patients get there in a year, etc. Do a good research work. You can go through the interview videos to get a better understanding. Dress formally and carry all the documents and a CV.

Starting Work as an LPN

Once you clear the interview and agree upon the job norms and the salary offered, you are given a joining date. Before that, the hospital may take your drug screening test. The candidates must prepare for the first day at the workplace by purchasing the uniform (nurses generally wear scrubs) and the required instruments like a stethoscope. Once you join the job, you will be given a computer security username and password that will let you gain access to medical records, time-keeping, and registration system. The practical nurses are required to complete some educational requirements in the first few days.

LPN Work Orientation Period

The first month in the organization is referred as the orientation period. During this period, the organization evaluates whether you possess the required skills or not. The orientation period may extend up to weeks depending on the department and the role of the LPN. The practical nurses would have the assistance of a mentor and a preceptor, during this time. In the end, the performance is analyzed to give you valuable feedback.

LPN License Renewal

In the majority of the U.S. states, the license expires after a duration of two years. The Board informs the candidates via mail 1-2 months prior the expiration date of the license. Practicing nursing with an expired license is against the law. Hence, the candidates must ensure that they get the license renewed on time by completing the renewal application and submitting the necessary documents.

LPN Continuing Education Credits

Some states require you to have certain college credits to renew the license. Continuing education credits are accredited articles, lectures, or videos that provide education to the LPNs. Every state has a different requirement of continuing education that can be checked at the official site of the Board.