Licensed Practical Nurses: A Dying Breed?
North Shore-LIJ planned ahead and let its staff know that within 10 years, it would phase out the role. LPNs were offered the opportunity to pursue their RN degrees, which would be paid for by the organization, or to be placed in non-licensed positions.
“Roughly 75% of the LPNs decided to take us up on the offer to go back to school,” says White. “They achieved their licensure for RN and many of them are currently working with us as RNs.”
“There were some that were toward the end of their careers and we allowed them to stay in their position as LPN knowing that RNs on their floors would have to watch over their patients as well, doing the assessment, diagnostics, interventions etc. As those people retired, we filled those positions with registered nurses.”
The small portion who didn’t fit that category and who did not want to go back to school were helped to find other roles within the organization. White said no one lost a job as the result of the decision and that there were roles that could easily be performed by LPNs, such as dialysis technicians or OR technicians, which are unlicensed roles.
Despite the move away from the LPN in acute care, the role as a whole is in no danger of going away. U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts LPN ranks will grow by 21% from 2008 to 2018. The bulk of this growth is post-acute care, where patients do not require the skilled assessment and complex critical thinking needed from RNs.
“I don’t know that it will completely die out because there are areas such as long-term care facilities that can utilize their skill sets,” says White. “In acute care facilities in the foreseeable future, I don’t see the LPN role as being a viable role. There will be smaller numbers required.”
Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits www.StrategiesForNurseManagers.com and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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