Nurses make up the largest discipline of healthcare professionals in the world, according to the World Health Organization, and they are critical in providing patients with effective care. However, the American Nurses Association (ANA) notes that the healthcare system is becoming increasingly strained as aging Baby Boomers require access to higher levels of care and more nurses retire from the workforce.
With their profession in such high demand, many licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are asking the question, “What can you do with a practical nursing certificate?” In the changing healthcare landscape, there are many opportunities to leverage certificates and skills to advance in their nursing careers.
LPN Licensing Requirements
LPNs are responsible for providing basic medical care to patients in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, or physicians’ offices. To begin working as an LPN, professionals are required to complete a certificate or diploma program from a state-approved nursing program. These programs review nursing, biology, and pharmacology subjects to ensure students are prepared to work with patients.
Following completion of the program, nursing graduates must obtain a license through their state’s board of nursing or regulatory body by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical/Vocational Nurses (NCLEX-PN). As exam eligibility requirements vary by state, students must research what they need to do prior to taking the NCLEX-PN.
LPNs can also attain certification in specialized areas of nursing such as intravenous (IV) therapy or gerontology, through other professional associations.
Working as an LPN
What nurses can do with a practical nursing certificate may differ from state to state; however, there are several general duties of the LPN profession that are consistent nationwide.
LPNs spend most of their time interacting with patients to gather important information regarding their health. This information is analyzed alongside a patient’s medical records to collect a further range of health data and provide a full picture of a patient’s health. LPNs can also perform basic care-driven patient procedures, from checking blood pressure to inserting catheters. They may also be charged with providing patients with more personal care in certain scenarios, such as helping them dress or bathe.
LPNs often work with physicians and registered nurses (RN) to build a patient care plan based on the data gathered through patient interaction and medical record analysis. In some cases, the LPN may administer tasks associated with this care plan such as collecting samples and completing lab tests. However, the extent of tasks LPNs can do independently and without physician or RN supervision vary by state.
Skills Required for an LPN
Since LPNs spend a lot of time interacting with patients, it is essential to have a caring, empathetic, and compassionate attitude toward the people they are helping. Having a positive bedside manner can encourage a patient on his or her road to recovery. LPNs must also have solid physical stamina, as they may be called upon to perform physical tasks to care for their patients.
LPNs must have skills to interact productively with physicians and RNs. During these interactions, LPNs must pay close attention to details, ensuring the attending physicians and RNs understand important changes and details in the patient’s health. Communicating clearly and being able to interact with multiple people easily are also important components to the profession. These skills are important in maintaining patient confidentiality as well as providing regular health updates.
Employment Outlook for LPNs
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for LPNs is about $45,000 per year, although this can vary on healthcare setting and state. An entry-level LPN may start at an annual salary of $38,000, according to PayScale, but as they progress in their careers, LPNs have the opportunity to earn more.
As is the case with other healthcare fields, the job outlook for the profession is robust. The BLS projects a 12 percent growth in the field from 2016 to 2026, which is 5 percent faster than the national average. While there is a strong demand for qualified LPNs, there are opportunities for current LPNs to advance their careers into other healthcare professions that require higher-level degrees and certifications.
Career Advancement for LPNs
With certifications and experience working in clinical settings, LPNs possess the foundational skills to advance into other nursing professions, such as becoming a registered nurse (RN). It is common for many RNs to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) before passing the NCLEX for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Most students must complete a first-year nursing curriculum prior to being admitted into an undergraduate nursing program, but some institutions allow students who meet certain criteria to be directly accepted into BSN programs as freshmen.
RNs have many similar responsibilities as LPNs, with additional duties including administering medications, performing diagnostic tests, and working with patients and their families to manage illnesses after leaving the care facility. For LPNs who want to extend their responsibilities and provide a higher level of care to patients, starting a BSN program might be the next step in discovering what they can do with a practical nursing certificate.
Job opportunities are abundant for advanced practice registered nurses. Demand for NPs is expected to remain high across the nation, and career-driven nurse practitioners can look forward to advancing into leadership roles as they continue to hone their practical skills. Regis College prepares nurse practitioners to take the next step in their careers with the online Nurse Practitioner Post-Master’s Certificate program. NPs who enroll in the program experience the same rigorous academic classes as traditional students, but with the flexibility of an online course delivery method.
Nurse Theory, “What Is An LPN? (Job Description & Duties)
PayScale, Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses”