I’ve heard many myths over the years about licensed practical nurses, or LPNs. I’m here to clear up misconceptions about what LPNs do, where they work, and how much money they make. By setting the record straight, I hope to present a more accurate picture about the role of the LPN in our heath care system.
What Do LPNs Do?
LPNs in Illinois are allowed to perform many of the same skills as their registered nursing (RN) coworkers, such as initiating IV starts, administering medications, collecting data on patients, and monitoring for changes in condition. They check vital signs and perform wound care and dressing changes, specimens collection, urinary catheter insertion and care, care of patients with ventilators and tracheostomies, ostomy site care and maintenance, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), finger stick blood sugar testing, and much more. Proper charting and documentation of nursing care is also the LPN’s responsibility.
The LPN works under the supervision of an RN or physician;
however, the LPN is often the only licensed nurse present in many facilities. LPNs also supervise nursing assistants in certain healthcare settings. With the right mix of experience, LPNs can be promoted to administrative positions such as wellness directors, assistant directors of nursing, wound care clinicians, staffing coordinators, and case managers.
Where Do LPNs Work?
One of the most believed but inaccurate myths is that LPNs can only work in long-term care. While many LPNs do work in long-term care, it is not the only work they can or choose to do. LPNs work in acute care hospitals, and in fact, are increasingly being hired in our local hospitals. LPNs also secure employment in nursing homes, hospices, home health, private duty cases, psychiatric hospitals, prisons/jails, rehabilitation facilities, group homes, clinics, doctors’ offices, assisted living facilities, agencies, military instillations, and schools. I have even had pharmaceutical drug companies call asking for names of graduates for drug rep positions.
How Much Do LPNs Make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “employment of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is projected to grow 25 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.” The bureau also states, “the median annual wage for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses was $41,540 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,970, and the top 10 percent earned more than $57,360.”
What is the Difference between an LPN and an RN?
In the state of Illinois, LPNs can’t give IV push medication, take care of central lines, or hang blood. They do, however, monitor the blood.
A large percentage of LPNs plan to further their career and become RNs. Choosing to become an LPN first has many advantages. It can allow more time for the student to advance and also be able to manage their busy lives, be more involved in family affairs, and gain experience and make more money until they choose to go back to school. Once the decision is made to continue their education, bridging into Parkland’s RN program allows them to start in the 3rd semester of the program. Currently, there are students who came to Parkland and graduated as an LPN, completed the RN Bridge, and are now in BSN programs and master’s degree programs. The biggest difference is just the route the student decides to take.
***Check out LPN offerings for spring NOW in the Parkland College spring 2016 catalog. Night/weekend nursing class options are available in the upcoming semester, making it more convenient to earn your degree!***
[Joanne Heck is director of Parkland’s Practical Nursing program.]