Licensed practical nurses, also known as licensed vocational nurses, work under the direction of physicians and registered nurses. The role of an LPN is a supportive one that provides basic bedside care. LPNs are responsible for monitoring patient’s temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiration. They can provide a variety of treatments for various ailments, record patient info and help patients with their personal hygiene and emotional needs. In some states, LPNs can start IVs and are allowed to administer prescribed medication. Experienced LPNs may supervise nursing assistants and nurses aides.
An aging registered nurse work force combined with a shortage of new nurses is giving rise to an increased need for LPNs in the patient care setting. According to an article by Patricia A. Kenney, MSN, RN; Maintaining Quality Care during a Nursing Shortage Using Licensed Practical Nurses in Acute Care (PDF), the LPN has historically “been used in staffing mixes to alleviate nursing shortages.” The article goes on to cite a national trend “to provide additional training and education to licensed and unlicensed assistive personnel to perform various procedures that include medication administration.”
LPNs work in many different health care settings. According to the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are almost 750,000 licensed practical nurses in a variety of settings. Twenty-six percent of LPNs work in hospitals, 26% in nursing care facilities, 19% in home health care settings and the remainder work in residential, community care and governmental agencies. The US Labor Board projects that through the year 2016, there will be an increase in the need for LPNs and that is attributable to the increase in the need for elderly care services. Nursing homes and long term care facilities will offer the most new jobs for LPNs as the number of aged and disabled persons in need of long term care rises. Employment opportunities will also arise in health care settings that are removed from traditional models, such as public health clinics, physician’s offices and outpatient surgery centers.
The National Federation of Licensed Professional Nurses (NFLPN) is the professional organization for licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses and practical/vocational nursing students in the United States. Their mission is to foster high standards of nursing care and promote continued competence through continued education and lifelong learning. The NFLPN was founded in the state of New York in 1949. It is the only organization in the US governed entirely by LPNs and LVNs; it is recognized as the official voice of LPNs and LVNs.