Practical Nursing in New Jersey
LPNs in New Jersey primarily provide sub-acute nursing care. Most often, they serve populations that are convalescent, disabled, or have chronic health conditions (whether residing in a nursing home, rehabilitation setting, or private home). Some work in community settings or provide same-day services for generally well populations.
A prospective LPN will complete an approved program (LPN programs in New Jersey), then take the NCLEX licensing examination at the ‘PN’ level. LPN licensure can mean a quick entry into the nursing workforce. An LPN may perform various duties, depending on provider/ facility needs: for example, taking vital signs, carrying out screening-related duties, administering medications and other treatments, managing seizures, and providing bedside care. LPNs have the satisfaction of working directly with patients and may enjoy solid wages and some opportunities for advancement. New Jersey mandates continuing education for nurses.
LPNs have a lower scope of practice than RNs. They are not expected to utilize the level of nursing judgment that RNs do (hence the term ‘practical’). Among the allowable duties of an RN: delegating nursing duties to LPNs. Typically, duties are delegated in circumstances where there will be predictable outcomes.
Can an LPN progress to the level of RN if he or she wants greater autonomy and greater choice of work settings and roles? Yes. Indeed, there are organizations in New Jersey working to facilitate progression to the RN level and beyond (LPN to RN programs and LPN to BSN programs).
LPN Work Settings in New Jersey
New Jersey, like many states, releases periodic reports about its LPN workforce (http://www.njccn.org/workforce-reports/). The latest report, based on 2015 to 2016 data, tells us that in New Jersey, as in the nation as a whole, nursing homes constitute the single largest employment setting for LPNs. 31% of the state’s LPNs identified them as their primary workplace. Another 3% cited hospital-based nursing homes, considered a separate category. 8% cited rehabilitation, also categorized separately.
In New Jersey, the next most common setting, after nursing home, was home health; it employed 15%. Hospital inpatient care is apparently down to only about 1%, discounting mental health inpatient care. There is a significant subset of the LPN workforce, though, for whom employment setting is unknown. Mental health inpatient settings, notably, employed slightly more LPNs than acute medical inpatient settings: 2%.
There has been a trend in most parts of the nation away from use of LPNs in acute care settings, but not necessarily to the extent that it has happened in the Garden State. Notably, the New Jersey survey also found the highest average LPN age in hospitals: 53 years old.
Ambulatory care employment is common: employing 9% of New Jersey LPNs, even discounting hospital-based ambulatory care. (Hospital-based ambulatory care is a separate category, employing 1%.)
Other less common settings included correctional facilities, assisted living facilities, public health, case management, and school health.
54% of New Jersey LPNs describe themselves as staff nurses. Charge nurse is the next most common at 8% (if one discounts the many who are included in the “other” category or for whom position is unknown). Public health nurse and case manager are each identified by about 2% of the LPN workforce. Approximately 1% self-identified in each of the following roles: school nurse, occupational health nurse, nurse coordinator, patient care coordinator, patient educator, frontline management, and middle management.
Working as an LPN in Long-Term Care: Nursing Facilities and Assisted Living
Nursing facilities often have populations who are sicker than those of decades past. However, in many cases, residents aren’t there for the long haul. They may be receiving intensive short-term services (therapy as well as skilled nursing). Many organizations, notably, are working to improve care for both long-stay and short-stay residents.
Assisted living employment, too, may be different from what people envision. Assisted living communities in New Jersey and elsewhere are dealing with acuity creep – caring for people who have high level needs or who develop higher level needs while in residence.
In a 2014 article, the Allendale Community for Senior Living’s CEO stated that, while there are different types of assisted living, including some options for those who are relatively independent, assisted living healthcare can be much like the nursing home of years ago (http://www.providermagazine.com/archives/2014_Archives/Pages/0714/Interconnecting-Trends-Reshape.aspx#magazine-article). He stated that his organization had gone with all-LPN staff mix (meaning that clinical care was not provided by individuals with training below this level). Assisted living residents are getting hipper, he noted, so there is an internet cafe and free video games, in addition to the more traditional pastime offerings. There are tai chi classes, but there’s also dementia and congestive heart failure. Like many senior living communities, Allendale offers a variety of services, including adult day care.
Assisted living is an arena where a skilled and experienced LPN may advance far. One community, for example, recently sought a resident care director with prior management experience.
Of course these types of position are far in between. Another way to advance? Higher education! New Jersey LPNs can choose between LPN to RN and LPN to BSN (bachelor’s level) programs.
Premier Facilities for LPNs to Find Employment
Some assisted living facilities are recognized by the New Jersey Department of Health as having advanced standing. The Health Care Association of New Jersey identifies these facilities through its search tool (https://www.hcanj.org/consumers/advanced-standing-for-assisted-living-facilities/). This distinction takes into account standards set by multiple organizations: governmental and voluntary.
Both assisted living and skilled nursing facilities can go through the American Health Care Association/ National Center for Assisted Living program and achieve recognition (https://www.hcanj.org/facility-resources/ahcancal-national-quality-award-program/ahcancal-national-quality-award-recipients/).
Average LPN Salary in New Jersey
New Jersey LPNs earned an average $25.84 an hour in 2016: $53,740 for 52 40-hour weeks.
The largest subset of New Jersey LPNs works 35 to 40 hours a week.
The New Jersey LPN profession has been projected to grow by 15% over the course of the 2014 to 2024 decade.
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