Practical Nursing in Oklahoma

A practical nursing certificate can be a quick entry into the nursing field. At that point, there are further choices to be made. Practical nursing can be a long-term career or a step along the career path. Oklahoma LPNs take on many varied roles across healthcare settings. However, their scope of practice is not as broad as registered nurses.

The vast majority of the Oklahoma LPNs identify themselves as staff nurses; this typically connotes a fairly general direct care role. What one will actually do on the job will of course vary by population. Employers reference many technical duties: assisting with activities of daily living, providing bedside care, taking vital signs and examining patients, administering TB skin tests, maintaining personal medical equipment such as gastrostomy tubes, and even assisting with oxygen administration and airway maintenance during emergencies. Scope varies by state, and so does typical work setting. The Oklahoma Board collects and disseminates data about where nurses at different levels are employed. The most common setting is long term or extended care; this is also a setting where LPNs have relatively good chances of progressing to the level of nurse manager (if that is indeed an aspiration).

The hospital setting has become less common across the nation. The 2017 workforce report shows that many Oklahoma LPNs are still working in hospital settings – indeed, this is one of the most common settings statewide. However, this doesn’t mean that a perusal of current postings will turn up a lot of hospitals seeking to add LPNs. Some types of hospital setting are more ‘LPN territory’ that others. Psychiatric settings have different hiring needs than the typical hospital inpatient setting. Whether or not acute care hospitals will hire practical nurses for tasks within their scope of practice will depend in part on the current hiring market.

Home health is another very common work setting. Ambulatory care settings and community health settings also employ many LPNs. Schools, correctional facilities, and occupational health settings are among the other possibilities.

The Oklahoma Board of Nursing doesn’t define every nursing duty and whether or not it falls under an LPN scope of practice. Scope of practice is based on a number of factors: whether the duty is considered appropriate by standard setters (including national organizations), whether there is adequate supervision in the work setting, whether the LPNs own training supports it. If a nurse can answer “yes” to every question on the decision tree, it’s appropriate.

If a person has completed practical nursing training in the recent past in Oklahoma, chances are he or she has a background in IV therapy/ IV medication. However, this isn’t the case with all LPNs employed within Oklahoma.

Spotlight on Assisted Living

In Oklahoma, as elsewhere, professionals have noted a blurring line between nursing home and assisted living settings. Oklahoma is not as restrictive as some states about whose needs can be met in assisted living. People who move into assisted living are typically already well along in years, and their health conditions tend to worsen with time. Assisted living facilities need to ensure that there is a match between what they’re offering and advertising and who is actually living in their residences. One way they have been responding to challenges is to hire more nurses. Assisted living nurses have a variety of roles, from providing direct care to coordinating services.

In Oklahoma, specialized “memory care” or dementia units are more often located in assisted living facilities than in nursing homes. (Nursing homes do, however, have many residents with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.)

Spotlight on Rural Health Care

LPNs can be an instrumental part of healthcare delivery in rural settings. The Grand Lake News recently profiled one such setting: a new satellite clinic operated by a Federally Qualified Health Center (http://www.grandlakenews.com/news/20170127/developing-health-care-for-rural-oklahoma). The reporter noted that the physician in charge had a background in internal medicine with a special focus on geriatrics; the assisting nurse was an LPN.

LPNs employed in clinic and office settings often carry out some front office duties as well as some basic clinical duties.

A Snapshot of the Current Market

A scan of job postings in early 2018 reveals many diverse possibilities. A well-qualified LPN might be hired to do any of the following:

  • Carry out hospital nursing duties under RN supervision
  • Work as occupational staff nurse for a city development authority
  • Provide nursing care in an acute psychiatric unit
  • Provide hospice care
  • Dispense methadone at an outpatient substance abuse treatment center
  • Carry out duties necessary to determine plasma donor suitability

There are of course many positions in long-term care.

LPN Training and Advancement

Practical nurses complete relatively short programs; Oklahoma LPNs most often complete them through the state’s technology centers (LPN programs in Oklahoma). The NCLEX-PN licensing examination assesses readiness for entry-level practice.

LPNs may advance their careers by completing degree programs in registered nursing and then taking the licensing examination at the RN level.

Career Outlook and Average LPN Salary in Oklahoma

Oklahoma LPNs averaged $18.89 an hour in 2016.

The Oklahoma practical nursing profession has been projected to see 7.4% occupational growth between 2014 and 2024.

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