Inside scoop from our experts: LPN functions

HCPro's Weekly Update on the ANCC Magnet Recognition Program®*, November 8, 2010

This week’s question about LPN functions comes from a discussion on JourneyTalk.

Q: I am interested in knowing if anyone is re-thinking their use of LPNs in the acute care setting. My organization is starting to wonder if we are asking too much of unlicensed nursing assistants, and if we would have more success reducing falls and pressure ulcers if the majority of care provided to patients was from a licensed caregiver. Just starting to think about the cost implications of LPN vs. CNA--and what that model might look like. Is anyone else on this path and/or have experiences they could share?

A: We only have a small number of LPNs (21 out of 550 staff nurses); we are not, however, changing their job descriptions or practice setting. All of these LPNs are long-term employees and function well under the supervision of the RN. Our hospital feels a loyalty to them. In addition, we know that they are highly respected by their RN peers and it would cause much dissension among the RNs if we were to change their roles. With this being said, we do not hire LPNs from the outside. On the rare occasion we have hired an LPN who was already working in the division as a nursing tech. These individuals worked as an LPN while continuing their education toward becoming an RN. It is made clear to them that this is an expectation of employment. This has occurred twice, and both times have worked out well. Otherwise, as LPNs leave or retire, they are replaced by an RN.

I know institutions which have a similar philosophy to ours but also know several who have changed the LPN role. A lot depends on the culture of your facility.

Editor's note: On JourneyTalk you can network with your peers, discuss the new manual, share your helpful tips, and get advice on how to meet the program's expectations.

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