With nursing scopes and skill sets changing, some may wonder if licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are needed today. What void do they fill among certified nursing assistants, certified medication aides, and registered nurses? Typically, the role of an LPN (licensed vocational nurse, or LVN, in some states) is situated just below an RN in the nursing hierarchy. There has been a distinct nursing shortage over the past 60 or 70 years. So the more nursing staff on all educational levels, the better, right?
LPNs Created To Help Fill The Gaps
LPNs began during World War II to supplement nursing shortages when RNs served in the military. Throughout the WWII years, during the Korean and Vietnam wars, the need was still there. Today, nursing jobs are still predominantly filled by women, but more men are getting their degrees and nursing licenses. And, as more and more women are branching out into jobs traditionally filled by men, it may seem reasonable to be concerned that this may affect women's roles in nursing. There may still be nursing gaps to be filled.
The LPN Career Path vs. The RN Career Path
It takes about a year to complete LPN studies. The salary ranges around $20 per hour, depending on your location, and in what venue you work. LPNs wear many hats just like an RN does. LPN career paths are shorter and more concise than an RN's path. An RN takes many more nursing courses, while an LPN learns mainly the practical nursing skills, hence their name. Additionally, RNs make about 50 percent more annually than LPNs. There are 3 times as many RNs as LPNs. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected LPN growth through 2022, will be faster than normal--about 25 percent. RN growth is projected to be about 19 percent. This may help close any gaps in the profession over time.
You Decide--Will LPNs Be Phased Out Any Time Soon?
LPNs center on patient care and charting. Most are employed in nursing homes, private pediatric and geriatric nursing care, and in hospitals. As more RNs take on administrative duties, they will continue to depend on licensed practical and vocational nurses to be the backbone of direct patient care. An LPN's job description varies from state to state. Should that job description become more standardized, LPNs will likely face more supervisory tasks. Will they eventually be phased out of nursing? An educated guess based on need, wages, and a fast turnaround educationally, would seem no. Talk to nursing companies, such as Visiting Nurse Group, for more information.
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