The licensed practical nurse today is a person who holds a license (some type of registration or certification issued by the appropriate legal agency) gained by one of several means:
1. A license gained on the basis of experience, originally issued when a state passed a law to control the licensure of persons practicing as “practical nurses.” This person is said to be licensed by “waiver,” meaning that educational requirements set forth in the new law have been “waived” or set aside for this person who had been practicing and who had furnished satisfactory proof of such practice.
2. A license gained on the basis of’ experience and passing an examination. In this instance, as above, experience was substituted for a program of study.
3. A license gained on the basis of having successfully completed a state approved practical nurse program and passing the state licensure examination. The common title for this practitioner is “licensed graduate practical nurse.” The legal title Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is used by each of the three categories (provided, of course, that a license is current and the individual is in “good standing” with the licensing authority). If the state or jurisdiction uses the title vocational nurse, the legal title is Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). In the case of the title nursing assistant, the legal title is Registered Nursing Assistant (RNA) or Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). The current law in the jurisdiction specifies the title to be used.
In terms of numbers, in the United States (1966) there were approximately 300,000 licensed practical nurses. In Canada (1966) licenses were issued to 26,593 (including 589 males) nursing assistants.
In terms of female versus male, it is predominantly a female vocation; however, there are and continue to be tremendous numbers of employment possibilities for male practical nurses. As you will come to know, there is an ever-widening scope of employment possibilities as society produces ways and means to meet growing health demands. Men can fill many of these positions as well as or better than women.
Licensed practical nurses, as a working group, have good “staying” records; they tend to continue employment in a given location. Perhaps this is due, in part, to the fact that many students entering the program are somewhat older and have established homes. The factor of work stability is an important one to the employer. The community respects the person who makes a continued, worthwhile contribution (whatever the work may be) to the mainstream of community life. Community respect and ,job security play a real part in a person’s satisfaction with his work and within himself. An effective licensed practical nurse is no exception: this work, well done, holds many satisfactions for the practitioner.
As you near the completion of your program, you will become more directly interested in employment possibilities and should have amble opportunity then to examine them in detail. At this beginning point, it may be of interest to know that while many LPN’s work in general hospitals, a growing number are found working in doctors’ offices, public health agencies, nursing homes, intermediate care centers, and special care facilities for retarded individuals and the physically handicapped. In the field of mental illness, the need for more LPN’s is tremendous.
For work safely and effectively done, the licensed practical nurse is an acknowledged and respected member of the nursing team.
The answer to the question “What does the licensed practical nurse do?” would depend upon who answer it. Some would say she does every thing the registered nurse does.” “she does than site is trained to CIO.” “she wants to do More than site is pre-pared to do.” Others would say, “site is all essential. well-trained person who assists in the care Of patients.” “site fills a touch needed place in the health field,” “site performs responsible tasks in a nursing staff member.”
It is impossible tit describe, task by task, exactly what the practical nurse does for the very real reason that conditions surrounding her employment fashion and shape her responsibilities. This may be cause for concern. for when taken to unrealistic extremes such situations call be and often are much less than desirable. Carrying responsibilities beyond preparation for such practice is dangerous for the patient and leads to “overstretching” the limits of the license to practice
Since the American Nurses’ Association issued a pamphlet called Subsidiary Workers in the Care of the Sick (1940), the role, qualifications, legal status, functions and preparation of the practical nurse have been revised periodically (1947, 1951, 1957, 1964) to reflect re-thinking and new thinking.
In 1957 the National federation of licensed Practical Nurses (NFLPN) and the American Nurses’ Association (ANA) publihshed a statement (American Journal of Nursing. April, 1957) which was later expanded and published in the American ,Journal of Nursing