Practical Nursing in Illinois
The Illinois population is changing – getting a little older each year – and that’s one reason organizations are concerned about having enough Licensed Practical Nurses.
LPNs have a scope of practice above CNAs. Their scope is below that of registered nurses. LPNs work under delegation by registered or advanced practice nurses or under the direction of medical professionals. They have a role in assessment and in evaluation of response to treatment. Their training allows them to carry out many technical duties beyond provision of basic care and comfort. Medication administration is part of the Illinois practical nursing curriculum; some IV-related duties are also included (http://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/admincode/068/068013000B02400R.html).
There are differences in work circumstances from one setting to the next. The Illinois Nursing Workforce Center notes that LPNs in nursing homes have less direct supervision than those in hospital settings.
Illinois LPN Work Settings
The Illinois Nursing Workforce Center published an LPN workforce report in 2016, based on 2015 renewal data (http://nursing.illinois.gov/ResearchData.asp).Approximately 22% of the state LPN workforce participated. According to the survey, the largest segment of Illinois LPNs — nearly half — work in nursing facilities, extended care, or assisted living. Home health accounts for an additional 11%; hospitals, just 8%.
Ambulatory care, community health, school health, and correctional facilities are relatively common work settings.
The Illinois Nursing Workforce Center anticipates shift from acute care to long-term care. While some shift from nursing homes to home health is expected, the increase in the state’s elderly population means continued growth in nursing home employment.
Long-term care is considered an area of high need. The Illinois Nursing Workforce Center noted concern about the number of LPNs who were currently employed in nursing homes and extended care facilities who indicated an intent to retire within the coming five years.
For some, fortunately, eldercare is a calling. The International Nurses Association recently welcomed a retired Illinois LPN and 53-year nursing veteran to Worldwide Leaders in Healthcare (https://www.prnewschannel.com/2018/02/05/esteemed-licensed-practical-nurse-donna-m-inman-lpn-will-be-highlighted-in-the-worldwide-leaders-in-healthcare/). Well into a career that spanned many areas, from neonatal care to scrub nurse duty in the operating room, the LPN found her niche in long-term care. She cited dementia as a research interest.
Assisted living residences represent another option. They are intended for people who do not need nursing home level of care. Illinois places limits on the type of health needs that a person can have and still rely on assisted living for their care. Even so, acuity is rising; this was a source of discussion at the Leading Age 2017 Meeting and Exposition.
Some residents may hire people who are not employed by the assisted living facility to provide additional nursing care (making for a more complicated situation).
Becoming an LPN and Advancing One’s Career
A person can become an LPN with just a certificate (provided he or she passes a licensing examination and meets general eligibility requirements). Some Illinois LPNs have degrees in other fields. There are some differences in work setting at the higher levels. A person who holds a graduate degree and also has an LPN certificate is more likely to be in a policy and regulatory position. LPNs work in the same settings in roughly similar proportions whether they have a certificate or an associate’s degree – those with the two-year degree have slightly higher representation in the home health and hospital arenas (LPN programs in Illinois).
Higher nursing degrees, though, can make a big difference in opportunity. The State Journal-Register recently profiled a Springfield woman who worked her way up from assisted living housekeeper to CNA, then LPN, and then RN. Now she is a doctoral student within reach of her ultimate goal: becoming a nurse practitioner. She wasn’t accepted in a bachelor’s level RN program the first time she tried, and that’s why she took a longer path (http://www.sj-r.com/news/20170914/memorial-nurses-career-journey-goes-viral-on-facebook?start=2).
Continuing education is important even for those who opt for lifelong careers as CNAs. The retired LPN whose career was recently highlighted by the International Nurses Association noted continuing education among the things that had built her career success. Other ingredients for success: good observation skills and the opportunity to work with talented health professionals.
Professional certifications can be an asset. Nearly half of Illinois LPNs have them. The most common is IV certification; the next most common is wound care, followed by gerontology. Other relatively common certifications include hospice and palliative care, cardiovascular, and hemodialysis.
Current Employer Needs
Early 2018 finds many nursing homes and extended care facilities seeking to hire LPNs. Some, indeed, are offering sign-on bonuses or offering to pay off student loans.
Those in home health often care primarily for elders, but there are exceptions. Some organizations — and nurses — specialize in care for medically fragile children.
Some recent postings were for LPNs who could work in school nursing or related settings, either with a general population or a population of disabled students. One employer sought an LPN to accompany special needs students on the school bus.
Among the numerous other roles sought:
- Administering medication and providing resident assessment and documentation for assisted living
- Administering vaccines and carrying out related clinical and nonclinical duties
- Acting as a floater in clinic or outpatient settings
Employers emphasize the importance of empathy or human-centered care. One assisted living residence tells of an LPN who, concerned when a resident didn’t show up for meals on the anniversary of her brother’s death, took her a purple flower to match his Purple Heart.
Career Outlook and Average Salary
Illinois LPNs earned an average of $23.11 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — $48,070 for 52 40-hour weeks.
There is a wide variety of salaries. The Illinois Center for Nursing Workforce asked survey respondents about the salary they earned at their primary position. The largest group (1,579 LPNs) selected the $35,000 to $45,000 range. This was followed by $25,000 to $35,000 (1,332) and $45,000 to $55,000 (1,042).
Illinois has been projected to see 8% LPN occupational growth over the course of the 2014 to 2024 decade.
Rural counties with sparse population have fewer LPNs on a per-population basis.
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