Practical Nursing in Colorado
Nursing assistants represent an important part of the nursing workforce. Colorado LPNs provide nursing care to people who can be expected to have predictable outcomes. Indeed, “predictable outcomes” is noted under scope of practice. It is becoming less common for LPNs to work in hospital settings than it was in decades past. Long-term care settings have become very common. Some LPNs deliver care out in the community.
LPNs carry out various technical nursing duties. They are expected to demonstrate a level of proficiency in reporting changes in patient condition. Scope of practice is further defined by the curriculum taught in Colorado practical nursing programs (https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/dora/Nursing_Laws).
The path to LPN is shorter than the path to registered nurse. LPN programs in Colorado are just 9 to 11 months in length. Sometimes practical nursing represents an early exit option in a registered nursing program. Colorado career ladder programs allow LPNs to continue for an associate’s degree and RN licensing or even go straight for a bachelor’s degree.
IV certification can expand career options. A Colorado LPN will need a separate authorization to practice IV therapy.
Colorado LPN Workforce
The LPN workforce has not been frequently studied. The Colorado Health Institute published a profile of the Colorado LPN workforce in 2009, based on a 2007-2008 survey (https://www.coloradohealthinstitute.org/research/2007-08-colorado-licensed-practical-nurse-workforce-survey-findings). The Colorado Health Institute noted that hospital employment was on the decline; a nationwide study carried out by the University of California-San Francisco several years later noted a similar trend. Still, 15.8% reported the hospital as their main employment setting. Notably, many LPNs who reported the hospital as their first work setting after training were no longer in that setting.
While none of the respondents had begun their careers in assisted living, 3% were by the time of the survey. While only 1.9% had begun in home health, 5.2% were by the time of the survey. The percentage employed in rehabilitation centers was on the rise. Correctional facilities now employed more than 3% of the state’s LPNs.
Nursing homes represented the largest single employer. Clinics and office settings utilized slightly more LPNs than did hospitals; it was these settings that had seen the sharpest rise.
The survey found that LPNs employed in hospital settings sought additional education to a disproportionate degree. In doctor’s offices and clinics, there were also more LPNs pursuing higher education than not. Many who were employed in long-term care settings did as well.
Areas of Advanced Knowledge
There are many opportunities to enhance work experience besides earning degrees or making a major change in work setting. Wound care is an area where a majority of respondents were already showing interest. People outside the health professions often think of wounds as injury-related. However, many people with long-term healthcare needs suffer wounds secondary to other health conditions. Lack of normal mobility leaves one susceptible to skin ulceration. Chronic disease also increases the risk of ulceration. Colorado is #12 in the nation in pressure sores, according to the Long-Term Services & Supports State Scorecard.
Other areas of high interest include Alzheimer’s/ mental disorders and geriatrics.
Home Care/ Private Duty Practical Nursing
Home health LPNs may provide in-home services like trach care, catheter management, wound treatment, and feeding tube management.
Some private duty nurses provide, or even specialize in, pediatric care. Among the companies advertising in Colorado for LPNs and RNs in 2018 is Thrive Skilled Pediatric Care. The organization, self-described as a step beyond home care, provides skilled nursing services for medically fragile children. Patients may be respiratory-compromised, premature, or have genetic or neurologic impairments.
LPNs Role in Assisted Living
Assisted living represents a small but growing segment of the long-term care market. This is an arena where an LPN may advance. The Colorado Springs Gazette recently noted under “Movers and Shakers” a practical nurse who made it all the way to assisted living director (http://gazette.com/colorado-springs-movers-shakers-fran-capritta/article/1602509).
Some long-term care facilities focus on dementia or “memory care”.
NRC Health has recognized one Colorado assisted living community, Marycrest Assisted Living-Serenity Residence in Denver, in the workplace category; this is based on associate satisfaction.
LPN Role in the Clinic and Office Settings
LPNs employed in clinics and office settings may perform technical tasks such as blood draws and administration of nebulizer or steroids. This is in addition to basic tasks such as taking vital signs and obtaining patient information.
Colorado is ranked #8 in the nation for long-term services and supports. The state is in the top ten in keeping long-stay nursing home residents out of the hospital and in keeping home health patients out of the hospital.
Career Outlook and Average LPN Salary in Colorado
Colorado employs fewer LPNs than the average state on a per-population basis; this is based on 2016 figures.
Percentage-wise, Colorado practical nursing is projected to see very high growth: 31.4% over the 2014 to 2024 decade.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists an hourly wage of $23.41, or annual wage of $48,690, as the state average.
Front Range Community College lists $39,965 as entry level, citing the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment (https://www.frontrange.edu/programs-and-courses/a-z-program-list/nursing). An experienced LPN may command about $53,056; this is just below the figure listed as entry level for an RN.
2018 finds some Colorado facilities offering sign-on bonuses to LPNs.
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