Overview of Responsibilities
The responsibilities of a licensed practical nurse, or LPN, are quite varied. It is this diversity that makes for a fun, enjoyable job that is never boring. Most LPNs will find themselves working with licensed physicians and other nurses in a number of different settings, including hospitals, clinics, urgent care facilities, specialized nursing facilities (SNFs) and other locales.
An LPN is responsible for standard bed side care for patients. Often, the nursing team will be headed by a registered nurse (RN) who then directs the LPNs and LVN who work under his or her instructions. Typical duties include taking vitals, such as temperature, blood pressure, respirations per minute, and pulse. The numbers are then recorded into the computer, or written down depending on the technical standards of the facility. More advanced patients may also require closer observation, to ensure the adequate administration of medication, as well as 'ins and outs' meaning intake via food ,drink, IV and output in the form of urine, bowel movements, and blood loss (especially during surgery).
Besides the numbers, a licensed practical nurse has to help patients in many of the activities of daily living, abbreviated ADLs. These include basic hygiene such as cleaning and bathing, dressing, and assorted other practices. As an LPN, you are one of the closest individuals to the patient, both in a physical and emotional way. You will be expected to serve as a vital component of the health care team, not only by reporting the patient's status to the associated doctors and nurses, but also to help support the individual be as well taken of as possible.
More advanced responsibilities for nurses include jobs such as proper wound cleaning and dressing, which can take months of practice to master. Along the same lines, they may be responsible for getting patients out of bed, or at least moving, to prevent the occurrence and exacerbation of bed sores. Nosocomial infections (those caused by being in a hospital) are also a concern, so the LPN needs to be in a constant mode of observation. Lastly, the nurses may be asked to assist with catheters, bedpans, and other assistance with bathroom activites.
Lastly, the job of the licensed practical nurse is not solely limited to patient activities. LPNs are also expected to perform a number of clerical duties, which can include everything from making phone calls to data entry. As it is important to keep a clear record of patient care, both for a positive outcome and also because of legal regulations (including HIPAA in the United States), the significance of this responsibility cannot be overstated. As is apparent to you by now, LPNs have a long list of duties and are truly a vital cog in the health care system.