Maybe you're thinking about a career in nursing, but don't want to spend two to four years studying to be an RN. If this describes you, then consider becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN).
Scope Of Practice
LPNs care for stable patients, usually under the supervision of an RN. They perform basic bedside care, give injections and other medication, insert catheters, dress wounds and assist with personal hygiene. They also collect data such as height, weight, temperature, blood pressure and pulse.
As members of the healthcare team, they participate in the development of the nursing plan of care and document patient cares. Experienced LPNs may monitor the patient care of nursing assistants.
"Most diploma programs last 12 to 18 months. After passing the licensure exam, students are ready to enter the workplace. That appeals to people who don't want to spend a lot of time in school," says Bonnie Watts, interim director of nursing education at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (www.minneapolis.edu).
Once on the job, many LPNs continue their nursing studies. "Nursing mobility" programs, offered by most community colleges, allow LPNs to complete a two-year degree and sit for the RN licensure exam.
"LPNs can work anywhere that RNs do," Watts says. According to a recent survey by the Minnesota Department of Health (www.health.state.mn.us), about one-third of the state's 16,300 practicing LPNs work in long-term care, although this rose to 42 percent in rural areas.
Slightly more than one-quarter of Minnesota's LPNs work in clinics and doctors' offices, but only 16 percent are employed in hospitals. Opportunities for LPNs also exist in home healthcare.
"The current job market is tight. But once the recession eases, LPNs will be in demand," Watts says.
To find out about programs offered by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, visit www.mnscu.edu/programs/FindAProgram.php and search for "practical nursing."
Nancy Giguere is a freelance writer from St. Paul who has written about healthcare since 1995.