Licensed Practical Nursing Career in Alaska

LPNs help make healthcare accessible to Alaska residents. They are licensed nurses, with a scope of practice above nursing assistant but below RN. They typically provide routine care or support patients with on-going chronic needs. They may have some role in meeting more complex patient needs.

Typical work sites include clinics and doctor’s offices, nursing homes, and community settings.

LPN Roles and Duties

Alaska LPNs work under supervision of RNs or healthcare providers (physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, or dentists).

The Alaska Board of Nursing has provided information about scope of practice. Alaska LPNs provide direct patient care and also assign duties to (and supervise) the unlicensed personnel who provide the most basic care. Technical duties might include administering medication, giving shots, or changing some types of catheter. LPNs may provide patient education. Observing and recording patient condition and response are crucial duties; an LPN has some role in the assessment process, but it is a more limited one.)

Some technical duties (administering of IV medication, phlebotomy) are considered appropriate only for LPNs who have completed additional training and demonstrated competency. Others are inappropriate for anyone licensed at the LPN level (though many nurses begin as LPNs and then climb higher).

Long-Term and Extended Care Settings

Long-term and transitional care facilities are major employers for LPNs around the nation.

The following are among Alaska’s top certified nursing facilities in 2018, according to the Medicare Compare website:

  • Denali Center in Fairbanks
  • Heritage Place in Soldotna
  • Petersburg Medical Center LTC
  • Providence Valdez Medical Center
  • South Peninsula Hospital LTC in Homer

Ratings are based on health inspections and staffing as well as on objective sets of quality measures.

Some facilities have been deeply influenced by nursing home culture change movements. The Eden Alternative website lists a number of Alaska facilities (http://www.edenalt.org/resources/find-a-registry-member/registry-member-map/). Among them is the Denali Center. The Denali Center’s philosophy includes organization into smaller neighborhoods with consistent staff assignments – it also incorporates the healthy influence of plants and pets (https://www.foundationhealth.org/dc/philosophy). Among the activities residents may enjoy: 1) sewing drop blankets to be used by the dogs in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race who are waiting in various locations for reunification with their owners and 2) preparing for the annual themed prom. The Denali Center has two general long-term care neighborhoods, one short-term care neighborhood, and one neighborhood designed for residents with dementia.

There are other facilities in the state that reflect nursing home culture change. Providence Extended Care at the Cottages is organized into 12-resident cottages with private bed and bath suites, an open kitchen, and access to courtyard/ patio space. The organization advertised in 2018 for an LPN with supervisory experience and IV competency (or the ability to obtain competency).

A nearby facility, Providence Transitional Care Center, was recognized at the bronze level in 2018 as part of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living quality recognition and improvement programs. Facilities have the opportunity to move through three progressive levels of achievement; it’s a multi-year commitment, and very few nationwide make it to gold.

Some practical nurses who provide services in nursing homes are hired by the state; they apply through Workplace Alaska.

Some LPNs deliver skilled nursing services in the home. Frontier Home Health and Hospice is a major provider.

Clinic, Office, and Community-Based Settings

LPNs support healthcare providers in clinic and office settings. Duties can include preparing rooms, taking health histories, charting, administering medications, performing basic medical tests, and carrying out some case management and administrative functions.

The following are among the settings where LPNs were sought in 2018:

  • Occupational health and safety services clinic
  • Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium walk-in clinic
  • Outpatient surgical setting

Some of Alaska’s LPNs are involved in providing patient education and helping patients manage their care. One recent posting was for a Maternal and Child Health Nurse Health Educator for the Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program and WIC.

Another employer sought LPNs (in Alaska and elsewhere) to teach people to do in-home blood stick samples.

An Alaska hospital, meanwhile, sought an LPN to work on a unit for people with substance use issues and co-occurring disorders.

Becoming an LPN in Alaska

Prospective LPNs need to complete approved or accredited LPN programs in Alaska and pass examinations. The Alaska Center for Rural Health and Health Workforce lists 11 to 18 months as the expected timeframe.

The ACRHHW also reports that state programs have been temporarily suspended (https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/academics/college-of-health/departments/ACRHHW/acrh-ahec/healthcareerswebsite/careers-descriptions/licensed-practical-nurse.cshtml). Budgetary constraints are an issue.

Average LPN Salary in Alaska

Alaska’s Licensed Practical Nurses enjoy an average hourly wage of $27.20 – the fourth highest pay rate in the nation. Pay rates are similar in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas of the state, though very slightly higher outside the metropolises. In fact, the two Alaska non-metropolitan reporting divisions, with hourly wages between $28 and $29, rank #1 and #3 of all non-metropolitan areas in the nation, salary-wise. The concentration is of course low in these areas, but health needs can be high!

Actuals earning will vary. Alaska LPNs at the 10th percentile make $20.46; those at the 90th percentile make $34.86.

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