As the Executive Director of the West Virginia State Board of Examiners for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), I interact with LPNs, their educators, and their employers every day. I have been working with the Board for 16 years and previously taught in an LPN school. If there is one thing that this experience has taught me, it is the importance of LPNs in patient care.
So, what advice would I give to any LPN in terms of “best practices”? There are many things that can be done to ensure patient safety and continued nursing career growth.
- Be careful. Everyone makes mistakes. Nurses are human, and any nurse who has worked for any length of time will tell you that he/she has made a medication error at least once. There are steps that we can take to prevent errors, whether in administering medications or performing some other type of nursing skill. For example, LPN take a course in pharmacology in their educational programs. It is essential to follow the “six rights” of medication administration and documentation, even if you have given that same medication to that same patient many times. Physician orders can change, and unless we check the Medication Administration Record (MAR) each time when passing meds, we may not know of any such changes. It is easy to “take shortcuts” when we are busy, but these shortcuts sometimes can lead to mistakes.
Think before you act, and if you are not sure of what to do next, ask someone who can help you. Maintain high ethical standards as you practice. Remember that as a nurse, you are the face of the profession and the face of the facility to your patients and their families.
- Know your scope of practice. The scope of practice for LPNs differs somewhat from state to state. It can also differ from facility to facility. All nurses have a professional responsibility to be aware of their legal scope of nursing practice in the state where they are working. If you are unsure, contact the Board of Nursing in that state by accessing their website or other means to get the information that you need. Just because you know how to do something doesn’t make it legal or consistent with facility policy. As stated above, if you aren’t sure whether something is within LPN/LVN scope of practice, ask someone before you do it.
- Be an advocate for practical/vocational nursing. There are a variety of professional organizations for LPNs. Find out what these are on both a local and national level, and join if at all possible. Nurses can have an incredible amount of power and influence provided that we work together towards common goals. We can work towards achieving better working conditions for nurses, increased patient safety initiatives, more funding for nursing scholarships, recruitment and retention initiatives, etc. Consider running for political office, or at least email, call, or visit your legislative representatives to discuss issues in health care that are important to you and to the profession.
- Be a leader. You don’t have to be in a management position to be a leader. Leaders are given this informal designation because of their ability to work and communicate with others, organize their work, set priorities, etc. Some managers aren’t leaders, and vice versa. Some believe that leaders are born, however, many believe that leadership skills and abilities can be learned. Anyone can be a leader. Serve on facility committees, present yourself professionally, and be visible in a positive way in your workplace.
- Set goals. No matter what your future aspirations are, set goals for yourself. If you do not plan on continuing your education, set professional development goals such as joining the professional organization, reading journals, or anything else which would interest you. If you plan to continue in school, make a plan for that as well. It is fine for your goals to be somewhat flexible, however set a time frame initially to strive for completion.
We determine our own destiny with regards to our nursing career, both on an individual level as well as a much larger level. Being a great LPN is possible!
What has made you a successful LPN? Please leave a comment sharing your advice with other nurses.