Practical Nursing in Florida
Florida’s Licensed Practical Nurses are a diverse group. The largest portion of the state’s LPNs care for patients who are convalescent or have chronic sub-acute needs. Often these needs are brought on by advanced age, and this is one reason the occupation is growing here in the Sunshine State!
The next largest group work in doctor’s offices or other settings that provide same day services. LPNs are found in many other settings including hospitals, though a majority of hospital nurses have higher levels of nursing education and credentialing than what an LPN holds (LPN programs in Florida). (The Florida Center for Nursing has recommended that those without experience seek employment in other settings.)
LPNs in Long-Term Care, Home Health, and Hospice
The Florida Center for Nursing provides detailed information about the state’s workforce (https://www.flcenterfornursing.org/StatewideData/AboutourStatewideEfforts.aspx). An LPN supply report was published in 2016.
38.8% of Florida’s LPNs work in long-term care. Here LPNs outnumber RNs, though there are more nursing assistants even than LPNs; they typically provide the most basic care.
15.4% of the state’s LPNs are in home healthcare. In this arena, there are actually slightly fewer LPNs than RNs. It can take more skill and education to provide treatment in a home setting, but there is a high need for both types of nurse.
5.7% of Florida’s LPNs have the related role of hospice nurse. Caring for people in the final months of life brings its own rewards and challenges.
According to an employer survey published in 2016, it was in the home health arena that there was an LPN vacancy problem. Indeed, there was a vacancy problem here in all levels of nursing. This is an issue that state and national news articles have corroborated and expanded on.
Among the challenges of home health: providing treatment away from the security of a facility. The Florida Center has reported that home health agencies are the second most frequent type of employer, after hospitals, to offer residencies to aid transition to practice for new nurses. Still, according to the Florida employer survey, only about 30% were doing so.
The Home Care Association of Florida is a resource for professionals interested in the home care industry (http://www.homecarefla.org). Many home care organizations contract with Home Care Pulse to interview caregivers and patients and keep a pulse on satisfaction (https://www.homecarepulse.com). Medicare-certified home health agencies receive star ratings from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (https://www.medicare.gov); ratings are not intended as testimonials.
The Florida Center for Nursing has report that in nursing facilities, there is some difficulty in filling more advanced LPN positions that call for experience. Various organizations have a voice with regard to nursing home quality; among them are CMS and the American Health Care Association (AHCA).
LPNs in Clinics, Doctor’s Offices, and Ambulatory Care Settings
10.6% of Florida’s LPNs are employed in the offices of healthcare providers. Another 2.3% work in ambulatory care settings.
The Ocala StarBanner recently profiled a clinic nurse – an LPN with the distinction of having received the Secretary’s Award for Nursing Excellence by a veteran’s health system (http://www.ocala.com/news/20170728/ocala-lpn-earns-va-honor). She is part of a Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) that serves 1,200. Other team members include a physician and a registered nurse.
Part of her job is building relationships. Other duties include escorting patients, taking vitals, and administering vaccines. She follows through after the appointment to make sure questions have been answered. She is sometimes able to offer some reassuring explanation during the appointment. With nursing training at the practical level, she’s a long way from being able to diagnose, but she can alert the doctor if something is amiss. Once she alerted the doctor to some symptoms a patient brought up during a routine checkup, and this led to a diabetes diagnosis – the sort of thing that is better discovered sooner than later! This particular nurse has chosen to manage the clinic flu shot program. She works with a population she has strong feelings for: veterans.
Passion can be helpful, whether one seeks a lifelong career as an LPN or advancement to a higher scope of practice. For those who do want to diagnose down the road, there’s advanced practice. The Cut Bank Pioneer Press recently noted that a nearby clinic had welcomed a new advanced practice nurse from Florida. The nurse was at one point an LPN (http://www.cutbankpioneerpress.com/cut_bank_pioneer_press/news/article_f1db8d36-ea95-11e7-a922-4b3c3e6ceab9.html). She had taken many courses since then — nurse practitioner is a graduate level role.
Other Employment Options
Just 7.8% of Florida’s LPNs worked in hospital settings at the time of the last survey. This had declined quite a bit since 2008.
School nursing is one of many possibilities. Just 2.4% of the state’s practical nurses worked in this arena, according to the most recent report. However, opportunities can be different from time to time and place to place. ABC Action News reported in August of 2017 that Pinellas County would be doing a lot of hiring — placing full-time LPNs in all its schools (https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/region-pinellas/pinellas-co-to-hire-add-school-nurses-to-all-schools-later-this-fall). This puts the district in a better position to handle the many students with allergies and other chronic conditions. The reporter interviewed the mother of a 13-year old with allergies as well as others who had been concerned by lack of on-site services. (Sometimes, in a school setting, it’s a choice between having services provided by a licensed nurse or a school secretary.)
Correctional facilities and community and public health organizations also employ some LPNs.
Florida LPN Salary and Career Outlook
Florida Licensed Practical Nurses earned an average $20.65 an hour in 2016 – potentially, about $42,960 a year.
Practical nursing has been predicted to see 22% occupational growth across the 2014to 2024 decade.
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