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Where do Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) Work?

two LPNs at work

Image via Flickr by jdlasica

A common misconception exists that licensed practical nurses (LPNs) work primarily in nursing homes or hospitals. While LPNs can find employment in these two places, these individuals have many other professional opportunities available. If you're interested in pursuing a practical nursing education, you may want to explore the myriad of dimensions that an LPN can take. Explore a few of the places where an LPN might find work so that you can get an idea of how broad the field is for an LPN when you're looking at your education options.

Residential Facilities

Nursing and residential care facilities, such as nursing homes, are the largest employers for LPNs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (1). Of the 728,900 LPNs in the United States in 2018, 38% of LPNs worked in these types of facilities.

In a residential facility, LPNs provide daily care for long-term care patients. This setting presents one of the best options for professionals who look forward to relationship building with their patients. Nurses get to know each individual and develop routines that best suit each person's needs.

In a residential facility, an LPN will typically work under the supervision of a charge nurse, nursing supervisor, or director of nursing. An LPN may also communicate with physicians regarding a patient's condition, particularly if notable changes are present.

The responsibilities for an LPN in a residential facility include:

  • Developing written nursing care plans
  • Assisting with bathing, dressing, and grooming
  • Helping residents get in and out of bed
  • Making the residents' beds
  • Collecting and taking out trash
  • Making sure medications are taken properly
  • Observing, noting, and reporting patients' conditions
  • Assisting with activity programming
  • Supporting social services
  • Cleaning nursing equipment
  • Providing post-mortem care

The job outlook for LPNs in nursing care facilities is excellent. Job opportunities in nursing and residential care facilities are expected to expand by 760,700 between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS. (2)

Hospitals

Hospitals are the second largest employer of LPNs, accounting for 15% of all LPN jobs in 2018. Hospitals are the fourth highest paying industry for this occupation. In a hospital setting, LPNs may provide both short-term and long-term care for their patients, depending on the department and specialty area. LPNs can work in a variety of hospitals including psychiatric and surgical facilities. The areas that hire LPNs most frequently are maternity wards, emergency wards, and surgery facilities.

In a hospital setting, an LPN can work under the supervision of a registered nurse or other health care providers. In many hospitals, LPNs are part of a multidisciplinary team where they actively participate in mentoring, collaborating, teaching, and decision making. LPNs supervise nursing aids who work within the hospital.

The LPN is assigned a group of patients to observe and care for. Routine responsibilities of an LPN include:

  • Recording a patient's medical history
  • Taking and recording vital signs
  • Observing a patient's response to treatment
  • Administering injections, medications, enemas, and other treatments
  • Cleaning and dressing wounds
  • Collecting samples for lab testing
  • Assisting with daily activities such as eating and bathing

According to the BLS, hospitals are expected to add approximately 826,000 jobs between 2012 and 2022. (3)

Patients' Homes

Many LPNs work in patients' homes. These nurses are typically responsible for between seven and nine individuals and will travel to each individual's home throughout the day. Home health nurses may enjoy a flexible schedule that they can adjust to meet their personal needs as well as the specific needs of each patient. Some may prefer morning visits while others may want to be seen later in the evening.

These LPNs complete daily reports that are submitted to a home health care agency. The LPN spends the majority of the time off-site, but he or she will also attend meetings with other staff members to discuss the patient's care and current care plan. In addition to caring for the patient personally, the LPN will also instruct family members and other caregivers about the proper procedures for assisting the patient at other times he or she is not present.

Daily responsibilities for a home care health nurse include:

  • Evaluating a patient's condition
  • Assisting with personal hygiene
  • Accompanying a patient on regular outings
  • Conversing with a patient to promote mental and emotional health

The BLS expects that home health care services will add around 715,700 jobs between 2012 and 2022. (4) RNs, LPNs, home health aides, nursing assistants, and personal care aids make up about 77% of jobs in home health care services.

Clinics

In an outpatient clinic environment, LPNs are responsible for handling general intake tasks and assisting with routine medical care. This work takes place in a fast-paced environment where LPNs must perform tasks in a timely manner and assist patients as quickly as possible. Clinics generally receive a high volume of patients throughout the day. These nurses rarely have time to form strong relationships with their patients, offering only short-term care instead.

In some clinics, LPNs must triage patients. This process determines the proper order of care. While triaging a patient, an LPN will assess an individual's complaint, determine how emergent the problem is, and arrange for timely care. This assessment may include recommendations for transferring the patient to a hospital for emergency care.

LPNs may work in specialty clinics that focus on a particular type of care, such as cancer treatment, wound care, or infant care. The LPN will usually report to an RN in a clinic environment.

In a clinic, an LPN's duties will likely include:

  • Rooming patients
  • Recording vital signs
  • Collecting specimens
  • Performing routine lab tests
  • Assisting with examinations
  • Changing wound dressings
  • Administering injections or oral medications
  • Scheduling appointments

Physicians' Offices

An LPN might work in a physician's office and provide daily assistance as patients come into the office. In this job, the LPN will provide short-term care at the time of the visit, but may form long-term relationships with continuing care patients who come back for follow-ups or other types of care.

The LPN's duties will vary depending on the size of the office. In a smaller office, the LPN might take on responsibilities such as collecting specimens, running labs, answering phone calls, and setting up appointments. In a larger office with a larger staff, the LPN's duties are usually more limited and may include:

  • Recording vital signs
  • Rooming patients
  • Assisting physicians with charts
  • Providing patient education
  • Giving injections
  • Administering medications
  • Preparing patients for their examinations
  • Dressing incisions
  • Assisting with minor medical procedures
  • Maintaining exam rooms
  • Checking and maintaining supplies
  • Answering patient questions over the phone

LPNs in a physician's office are usually under the direct supervision of the physician that they serve. Offices of health practitioners are expected to add around 1.2 million jobs between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS. (5)

Insurance Companies

The insurance industry may employ LPNs to analyze benefits packages and provide recommendations for prospective policyholders. This career opportunity departs from the standard career path for an LPN. Those who are interested in a desk job with less patient interaction can use their medical knowledge effectively in this environment. This career may appeal to an LPN interested in retiring from the long hours, physical demands, and emotional strain that are often found in other environments.

While working for an insurance company, an LPN might:

  • Determine the appropriate health care services for an individual
  • Recommend benefits packages
  • Advise on the appropriate cost for benefits
  • Help develop insurance plans
  • Perform physical examinations for potential policyholders

Theme Parks

Theme parks offer a distinctive job opportunity for LPNs. Many theme parks are sprawling environments that make it difficult and time-consuming for a guest to get to a health care provider. For example, the Walt Disney World resort is the size of San Francisco. Guests typically have to take two forms of transportation to get from the parking lot to the gates of the Magic Kingdom. That's why these facilities employ nurses on staff to assist guests with common health issues that they might experience while visiting the park.

A long day at a theme park is not only exhausting; it's potentially hazardous for individuals with health conditions. Visitors may suffer from heat exhaustion or sunburn from strolling the streets. Some rides can cause nausea, headaches, or other conditions. While attractions post warning signs about preexisting health conditions, not all guests heed these warnings.

A theme park nurse's duties might include:

  • Assessing guests' conditions
  • Providing basic medication to treat conditions, such as ibuprofen or Tylenol
  • Administering ice packs
  • Offering basic wound care
  • Triaging guests to determine how emergent their needs are
  • Contacting emergency medical services for severe problems
  • Advising patients with medical conditions on the most appropriate rides and shows

Coroner's or Medical Examiner's Office

Working in forensic nursing, an LPN might find employment with a coroner's office or a medical examiner's office. LPNs with an interest in law or criminal justice might enjoy this type of career. To get a job in forensic nursing, an LPN will typically have to get a Forensic Nursing Certificate, which gives the individual the specialized knowledge necessary to collect and evaluate evidence properly.

These nurses work under the supervision of a coroner or medical examiner, assisting them in assessing the condition of a corpse and determining the means of death or details of a crime.

A forensic nurse's job responsibilities might include:

  • Collecting biological evidence
  • Collecting physiological evidence
  • Assessing the cause of death
  • Assisting with autopsies
  • Preparing reports for law enforcement

A forensic nurse might also work in other environments such as social service agencies or law enforcement agencies. In these positions, the LPN may often work with living victims of a crime, collecting the necessary evidence to help identify a criminal and prosecute a crime. A nurse with a specialty in forensics can work in a hospital as well, collecting evidence from victims who come to the emergency department.

At Home

An LPN can work from home in a few roles. Some of the jobs that an LPN might be able to perform from home include:

  • Working in a medical call center. LPNs may be able to work in a call center and answer basic medical questions. To advance in this line of work, you will typically need an RN or BSN.
  • Performing medical coding. An LPN can work from home as a coder for an insurance company or medical BPO. Some positions require prior coding experience.
  • Handling medical billing. An LPN with experience in medical billing can often set up businesses working as self-employed billers and taking medical offices as clients.
  • Processing medical transcription. LPNs have the knowledge necessary to understand and effectively transcribe medical documents. Some employers prefer certification as a medical transcriptionist, but this certification is not always required.
  • Freelance writing. LPNs can often work as freelance writers. They can use their medical expertise to contribute to newspapers, magazines, and other publications. An LPN may work independently and provide content for these resources or they may work for a medical facility creating marketing, educational, and promotional content.

Traveling Nurses

LPNs who enjoy a life on the road might choose to work as travel nurses. These individuals work for nursing agencies and travel to different clinics or hospitals as needed to assist with staffing shortages. Medical facilities often struggle with shortages for a variety of reasons, such as another employee's leave of absence, population increases, or general unavailability of local nurses.

Travel nurses are responsible for:

  • Working as a liaison between patients and staff
  • Assessing patients' conditions
  • Administering medication
  • Creating treatment plans

Traveling nurses who work a certain distance from home and have to stay overnight for remote jobs are eligible for tax-free stipends to cover these expenses. These nurses may work at remote locations for anywhere from a month to 13 weeks. Although this type of lifestyle isn't for everyone, it presents some opportunities for nurses who are interested in seeing new places and exploring nursing opportunities throughout the country.

With many potential opportunities, a practical nursing diploma can serve you in many ways. LPNs should understand the full potential that they can have with this diploma. You can complete your education in as little as 12 months in the practical nursing program at Concorde.


Footnotes: 1. "Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm#tab-3. 2. "Healthcare: Millions of jobs now and in the future," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/spring/art03.pdf 3. "Healthcare: Millions of jobs now and in the future," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/spring/art03.pdf 4. "Healthcare: Millions of jobs now and in the future," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/spring/art03.pdf 5. "Healthcare: Millions of jobs now and in the future," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/spring/art03.pdf

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