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The Benefits and Challenges of Being an LPN/LVN

Licensed practical nursing puts you on the front lines of health care, where you deal directly with patients when they need your help the most. The work of licensed practical nursing involves much more than simple bedside care. Nurses also provide the comfort, information and reassurance that patients and families need during a difficult time in their lives.

What do LPNs do?

The primary responsibilities of a licensed practical nurse (LPN) include a wide variety of health care duties. LPNs observe patients, check vital signs and keep other health care professionals up to date on what is happening with the patient. They engage in basic treatments, such as taking temperature, giving routine medications, treating wounds, or collecting samples. They might also prepare patients for medical procedures, or start IV treatments.

The work of LPNs doesn't end with the paperwork or medical procedures. Nurses interact with individuals during some of their most trying life obstacles, so LPNs must be able to listen closely, engage in meaningful conversations with patients and colleagues, understand the rules of privacy and what they can share, deal with patient families and provide comfort to those who are under their care.

Downsides to being an LPN

As with any job, there are some challenges for those who choose to make a living as a licensed practical nurse. Many nurses work long hours, sometimes in health care facilities that are understaffed. They might work various shifts around the clock. Depending upon the state, LPNs might not be allowed to hang IV bags or blood, admit patients or complete assessments without the supervision of a registered nurse (RN).

LPNs might also find that while they work hard at the nursing profession, they don't have the same advancement or pay opportunities as those who are licensed in registered nursing. In some states, LPNs can't work in specialized areas, such as the burn unit or emergency room. For these reasons, licensed practical nurses might choose to embark on LPN to RN bridge programs.

The benefits of licensed practical nursing

Being a nurse can offer many advantages and worthwhile moments. Many nurses find that their work is emotionally rewarding, as they are able to provide comfort and a sense of safety for their patients. Licensed practical nurses can also serve as a bridge between doctors and patients or their families by helping answer questions and explain procedures in a way that is clear and concise.

There may also be many other advantages to becoming an LPN. Licensed practical nursing programs might take only a year to complete, which means LPNs can get into the workforce quickly. The job outlook is also excellent: The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 22 percent employment growth for LPNs from 2010 to 2020 (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). That's an additional 168,500 jobs available for those who complete the licensed practical nursing program.

In addition, LPNs have the option of advancing their careers with LPN to RN bridge programs. These programs often have flexible scheduling, which can allow them to continue working while earning the higher credential.

Though the work of an LPN can sometimes be stressful, the emotional rewards can be just as powerful. For those who have a deep love of caring for others, becoming a nurse might be a very satisfying and fulfilling career path.

Sources:

"About the Advantages of an LPN," work.chron.com, Nancy Wagner

"Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, March 29, 2012, bls.gov

"Summary Report for: Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses," onetonline.org

Schools offering LPN Programs

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