Nurses are in demand everywhere, and for anyone interested in a rewarding career in health care, a great way to get started is as a licensed practical nurse, or LPN.
Job flexibility, opportunities for advancement, and a respected position on the front line of this dynamic and growing field are just some of the benefits it offers. What does it take to be a successful practical nurse? Here’s a closer look at some of the best qualities of a licensed practical nurse.
Quality 1: Empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It’s more than a sense of sympathy. It’s the willingness to see events from someone else’s point of view.
As a nurse, every therapeutic measure taken to help others heal is centered around the patient. That means what patients see, hear, think, and believe is the focus of the nurse/patient relationship.
Every day, a licensed practical nurse works with physically and emotionally vulnerable people. A nurse needs to be able to understand what they need to be well and have a sense of empathy. Some people are born empathetic, but others must learn. It’s as much a skill as it is a personality trait, and it’s something nursing school teaches from day one.
Quality 2: Compassion
Compassion is a practical form of empathy. It’s sensitivity toward the suffering of others, but with the desire and drive to alleviate it.
For licensed practical nurses, it’s seeing clients not just as their list of diagnoses, but as individuals with distinct needs. At the most basic level, people want the same things in life, but as products of their background and experiences, the way they perceive emotions like caring, love, and respect will be different.
As patient advocates, the way licensed practical nurses help patients heal is to learn how they see the world around them, and then intervene in a way that is most meaningful to themselves. Giving a child a shot, for example, is a simple task for an LPN, but understanding a five-year-old’s fears and taking measures to make him/her more comfortable is the essence of compassion.
Quality 3: Communication Skills
Licensed practical nurses are a patient’s link to the other members of the health care team. Doctors, registered nurses, therapists, technicians, and administrative staff all play important roles, but as a front-line health care provider, an LPN may spend more hands-on time with the patient and is in a good position to aid with communication.
Licensed practical nurses will often be the first ones to observe patients’ symptoms, hear their complaints, and be asked to answer questions. To do that effectively, they must feel comfortable reading, writing, and conversing with others regularly.
Two of the most essential parts of a practical nurse’s job are to put the doctor’s orders into effect and to provide patient education. Orders need to be read attentively, interpreted appropriately, and transcribed accurately for other team members and the patient to follow. Transcription errors are a top cause of major medical mistakes.
From following orders to helping patients and families understand vital medical information, good communication skills are what a licensed practical nurse will depend on most to be successful.
Quality 4: Time Management Skills
Tasks in health care are time sensitive. Administering medications and treatments, helping patients to eat, bathe, and use the bathroom can’t wait. Meanwhile, licensed practical nurses need to handle changes in orders and be ready for something that often happens in a medical setting—emergencies.
Busy days can be overwhelming, but being able to make the most of time prevent them from becoming stressful. Organization and time management come naturally to some people, but with practice and the right tools, they are learnable skills.
Quality 5: Team Spirit
Health care is most effective when it’s collaborative. Everyone an LPN works with, from the doctor and other medical staff to the patient and family, has a job to do, and the better they work together, the better the outcome.
For licensed practical nurses, sharing a goal means staying in communication with teammates and respecting others’ professional opinions, even when they differ, for the good of the patient. A team spirit also helps make stressful situations more manageable, and when all team members feel valued, they do their best work. It’s a win for both patient and provider.
Quality 6: Initiative
Nurses are professionals. They’re responsible for their own practice, and they need to set goals for themselves and their patients. That requires initiative.
Too often, licensed practical nurses feel that because they don’t give the orders they’re not making a difference. Nothing could be further from the truth.
LPNs don’t have the level of training of physicians or registered nurses and aren’t qualified to make treatment decisions. However, the way they approach orders and take responsibility for implementing them with compassion can be the difference between success and failure.
An order for patients recovering from hip replacement surgery to walk three times daily is easy for a doctor to give but not always simple for patients to do, and they can resist. It’s the licensed practical nurse working with the patient who knows if resistance is due to pain or fear of falling. Interventions as straightforward as administering pain relievers a half hour before the walk or reassuring the patient he’s safe by following him down the hall with a wheelchair can make all the difference in recovery.
Quality 7: Commitment to Learning
Licensed practical nurses graduate from school with the essential skills they need for success, but that’s just the beginning. Health care is an advanced, dynamic field with best practice guidelines that shift constantly. To maintain relevant skills and be the kind of LPN that’s attractive to employers require a lifelong commitment to remaining abreast of developments in the field.
In some states, a certain number of hours of continuing education is required for nurses to renew their licenses, and additional coursework or certifications may be needed to work in specialty fields. To take advantage of the many benefits a career in health care has to offer, nurses should be committed to growing professionally.
Quality 8: Critical Thinking Skills
Licensed practical nurses are decision makers, and they need critical thinking skills. Critical thinking, the ability to analyze facts and come to reasonable conclusions, is how nurses prioritize tasks and make clinical judgments accurately and efficiently under pressure. It’s a type of common sense that tells them that the woman who isn’t breathing needs attention before the man with a sinus headache.
Not every job in health care is in a fast paced environment, but making decisions is unavoidable for nurses. The good news is that while critical thinking comes naturally to some people, it’s also a skill that can be developed with practice.
Quality 9: Emotional Intelligence
A licensed practical nurse’s job is emotionally demanding. Each day can bring both joy and sadness. When patients face challenging circumstances, they need nurses who are compassionate and empathetic, but who are also able to put aside their own feelings to concentrate on the job at hand.
Licensed practical nurses need to be able to read emotions better than most, to figure out what their patients are thinking based on cues from their body language and verbal responses. Like empathy and compassion, it’s something that comes easily for some people, but it’s also something students learn as their interaction with patients increases.
Quality 10: Flexibility
People need care around the clock, and employers expect that licensed practical nurses will be willing to take shifts when necessary, even if it means missing Thanksgiving dinner with the family once in a while. Managing work/life balance is essential for nurses to avoid burnout, and it’s important to stick to a schedule that doesn’t create stress at home. It takes a flexible staff for a hospital or nursing facility to give patients the quality of care they deserve.
One of the benefits of a career as a licensed practical nurse, however, is the choice of employment settings. Babies wait for no one, so nurses who choose to work in labor and delivery may not have their choice of schedules, but for busy moms who need weekends off, a Monday through Friday job in a doctor’s office could be the perfect fit. Nursing is one of the few careers where people of all ages and needs can find rewarding opportunities that fit their lifestyle.
Quality 11: Open-Mindedness
The world is getting smaller. Today’s licensed practical nurses can expect to see patients from diverse backgrounds and cultures, many of whom will have beliefs that seem unconventional. Nurses are taught to practice based on evidence, but while neither religious nor cultural values are necessarily proof-based, they are as crucial to a patient’s well-being as science.
Female patients who decline a male caregiver because of their religious beliefs aren’t rejecting a nurse as a person. It’s simply what they need to be comfortable. Patients’ right to make their own medical decisions at every level is something nurses are called to protect, even if those decisions seem socially awkward, nontraditional, or not in their best interest from a scientific point of view.
Licensed practical nurses are also asked to care for clients with different personalities, and not everyone is pleasant. Patients are asked to put their care in the hands of strangers at a time when they are the most vulnerable and afraid. Compassionate open-mindedness is the foundation of good nurse/patient relationships.
Doing some soul searching before choosing a career in health care is important because it does take certain qualities, or the willingness to learn them, to be successful as a licensed practical nurse. But prospective students who take the time to consider if they have the right characteristics to be a good nurse have already taken the first and most important step to a fulfilling nursing career. They’ve looked at themselves critically for the benefit of those for whom they will care.
Do you have the qualities it takes to become a licensed practical nurse? Ready for an exciting new career in the health care field?
The Practical Nursing certificate program provides the graduate with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to function as a licensed practical nurse or LPN.
Part of the Practical Nursing training curriculum is devoted to theory and the other part to hands-on laboratory skills, practice, and off-site clinical externship rotations. These rotations include work at long-term care and rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, and childbearing and pediatric outpatient settings.
Upon successful completion of NCLEX-PN, the National Council Licensure Examination, which is a nationwide examination for the licensing of nurses in the United States, the licensed practical nurse (LPN) works under the direction of a registered nurse or licensed physician in a variety of health care settings.
Contact us today to find out more about how to become a nurse on Long Island.