5 Different Healthcare Career Paths for LPNs

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There are many reasons why nurses love their job. One of the benefits licensed practical nurses (LPNs) enjoy is an ability to choose a distinct nursing career path from a broad spectrum of options. This benefit pertains to a nurse's initial entry into the workforce as well as a nurse's decision to change work environments throughout his or her career as desired. Yet when we consider how the needs of an aging population will change over the next 10 years, we find that areas for growth in nursing opportunities shift for LPNs.

Over the next decade, LPNs will perform similar core duties across multiple work environments, including:

  • Monitoring and recording patient stats
  • Discussing health concerns with patients
  • Assisting patients with basic hygiene
  • Performing administrative tasks

But looking ahead, LPNs are expected to expand their presence into work environments that today they populate the least.

LPNs looking to start their nursing career soon, or preparing to switch to a different work environment, will benefit from gaining familiarity with their options. Below is an outline of the five most common work environments for LPNs and includes distinct duties performed in each environment, projected job growth for each career path, and other helpful details.

Note: the information below was reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and is in order by the percentage of the national LPN workforce as of 2010.

Nursing care facilities (non-exclusive to the elderly)

  • Examples of employers: residential treatment agencies such as group homes for the mentally or chronically ill, rehabilitative services, hospice services
  • Common duties: conduct health assessments, develop treatment plans, clean patient rooms, supervise nursing aides
  • Percentage of the national LPN workforce as of 2010: 28.9%
  • Projected job growth: 11.7% by 2020

General medical and surgical hospitals (private)

  • Examples of employers: hospitals – especially surgery, maternity, emergency departments
  • Common duties: assist with advanced medical practices, supervise new nursing aides
  • Percentage of the national LPN workforce as of 2010: 15.5%
  • Projected job growth: 8.1% by 2020

Offices of physicians

  • Examples of employers: physician offices, clinics, ambulatory surgical centers, emergency medical centers
  • Common duties: prepare patients for examinations, give injections, administer medications, assist with minor surgeries, dress incisions
  • Percentage of the national LPN workforce as of 2010: 12%
  • Projected job growth: 30.8% by 2020

Home health care services

  • Examples of employers: clinics, private home health agencies, subsets of larger facilities
  • Common duties: assist patients with personal and environmental hygiene, entertain and converse with patients to promote mental health, evaluate patient living conditions, accompany patients on outings, teach loved ones basic patient care
  • Percentage of the national LPN workforce as of 2010: 9.3%
  • Projected job growth: 72.1% by 2020

Community care facilities for the elderly

  • Examples of employers: public or private nursing homes, assisted living facilities, retirement homes
  • Common duties: keep patients and their environments clean, provide companionship, assist with physical therapy regimens
  • Percentage of the national LPN workforce as of 2010: 5.4%
  • Projected job growth: 49.4% by 2020

According to the BLS data, LPNs will experience a dramatic shift from working in nursing care facilities and private hospitals to home health care services and community care facilities for the elderly. These projections correlate directly with the anticipated rise in nursing care required for aging baby boomers entering the twilight of their lives. LPNs can use this information to determine which skills they need to develop for not only the work environments they find most appealing, but for what the future has in store for their profession.

If you're an LPN, which of these five distinct work environments interest you the most? Where do you predict you'll work in the next 10 years, and why? Please share your thoughts below!

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