It’s safe to say the medical profession would crumble without the support and skills of professional practical nurses. Fortunately, these superheroes in scrubs are a vital part of healthcare everywhere and the world is definitely better for it. If you’re thinking about a future as a practical nurse, check out some of the things you need to know.
Practical Nursing Defined
Practical nursing is a healthcare profession that focuses on providing basic medical care to patients in a variety of healthcare settings including – hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, home healthcare settings, emergency rooms, physician’s offices, and more. Working under the supervision of registered nurses and doctors, practical nurses are trained to provide basic nursing care and are also known as LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurse) and LVNs (Licensed Vocational Nurse). The difference in title depends on the state you’re in. In Texas and California, practical nurses are referred to as LVNs, while the rest of the United States uses LPN. But the typical duties for practical nurses are pretty much the same.
Typical Duties of a Practical Nurse
Practical nurses play an important role in patient care. Working as a practical nurse, you’ll be providing basic medical care, monitoring patient progress, and reporting any changes in their health status to the attending physician or registered nurse. Other typical duties include:
- Collecting samples for laboratory testing
- Administering medications or injections.
- Monitoring patient vital signs such as temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and respiration rate, and keeping a record of the same.
- Providing basic wound care such as changing dressings, monitoring healing progress, and reporting any signs of infection.
- Communicating with patients & families on how to take care of themselves after they leave the hospital or clinic.
- Collaborating with other healthcare professionals such as registered nurses, physicians, and physical therapists to ensure that the patient receives the best care possible.
- Completing various administrative tasks such as maintaining patient records, scheduling appointments, and ordering medical supplies.
What are the Requirements for Becoming a Practical Nurse?
The requirements for becoming a practical nurse vary from state to state, but the majority of nursing programs require a high school diploma or GED to enroll, and every state requires practical nurses to be licensed. That requires completing an accredited nursing program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). Most practical nursing programs take one to two years to complete and are offered at vocational schools, community colleges, and hospitals. These programs usually consist of classroom instruction as well as hands-on clinical experience. Once you’ve obtained your license, you’ll need to keep up with continuing education to keep your skills up-to-date and maintain licensure.
Career Outlook for Practical Nurses
Like many careers in healthcare, the future job prospects for practical nurses look pretty solid. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the industry anticipates adding mover 41,000 new jobs for licensed practical nurses by 2031. Plus – the median annual wage for licensed practical nurses was $48,070 in 2021 with the highest 10 percent earning more than $63,790.
It’s important to note that salary and job growth projections can vary depending on location, employer, and years of experience. However, overall, the career outlook for practical nurses looks bright well into the future.
In comparison, registered nurses (RNs) typically have a higher salary and greater job growth potential than practical nurses. However, the educational requirements to become a registered nurse are more rigorous and may require a bachelor’s or associate degree in nursing.
Overall, if you’re looking for a rewarding career in healthcare with a shorter education path, practical nursing may be the right fit for you. With strong job growth projections and competitive salaries, it’s a career field that’s worth exploring further.
The Difference Between Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses
While both practical nurses and registered nurses provide medical care to patients, there are several key differences between the two roles. The main difference is that practical nurses have less formal education and training than registered nurses. While practical nursing programs are usually a one to two-year diploma or certificate program, registered nursing programs require completion of a two-year associate, or a four-year bachelor’s degree program.
In terms of job duties, practical nurses typically work under the supervision of registered nurses and physicians. They may administer medication, take vital signs, and provide basic medical care to patients. Registered nurses, on the other hand, have a wider range of responsibilities, including developing care plans, administering complex medications, and performing advanced medical procedures.
Benefits of a Career in Practical Nursing
Job security: The demand for healthcare professionals of all kinds is on the rise, and the need for practical nurses is no exception. In fact, in addition to the projected growth of new jobs for practical nurses, there are about 58,800 openings annually related to nurses retiring or shifting to different occupations.
Flexibility: Practical nurses don’t just have the flexibility to work in a wide variety of healthcare settings, they can also work in a variety of shifts, including evenings, nights, and weekends. There’s also the flexibility associated with being able to take your skills just about anywhere through the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). The NLC is an agreement between states that allows nurses to practice in other states with a single license. Only a handful of states are not currently part of the NLC, and most of those have legislation pending to become NLC states.
Competitive salary: Practical nursing careers pay well and considering the demand for their skills is rising, you can expect pay for practical nurses to increase also.
Professional growth opportunities: As a practical nurse, there are several opportunities for professional growth, including pursuing advanced degrees, becoming a registered nurse, or even becoming a healthcare administrator. If you’re looking for a jumping off point that gets you in the nursing profession quickly but plan to pursue more advanced training, becoming a practical nurse is a great place to start.
Helping others is a great way to earn a living: Making a difference while you make a living is the best way to earn a living. There’s no doubt working as a practical nurse is a challenging career path. But it’s also a rewarding one.
Overall, a career in practical nursing offers a ton of benefits from future job security, and flexibility, to competitive pay, professional growth, and the personal satisfaction of being a healthcare hero. It’s a rewarding and meaningful career worth pursuing. If you’d like to learn more about practical nursing careers, visit www.practicalnursing.org for a list of programs in your area.