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Becoming an LPN in South Carolina

Licensed Practical Nurses work in healthcare settings throughout South Carolina. As nurses, they are vital to the health of the state’s residents. LPNs do not function on the level of registered nurses -- that requires another level of education -- but they may perform duties that help people recover from illness, maintain a basic level of comfort, and even carry out functions as fundamental as breathing.

LPN Work Settings and Roles

LPNs are frequently employed in places such as nursing homes and residential facilities, community-based settings, and clinics. Hospital employment remains a viable possibility.

A 2017 hospital nursing workforce survey by the Office of Healthcare Workforce Research for Nursing found that South Carolina’s LPNs were well represented in hospital settings, though their prospects were more limited than RNs (www.sc.edu/study/colleges_schools/nursing/centers_institutes/center_nursing_leadership/index.php). 90% of hospitals reported that they utilized LPNs, 55% that they had recruited in the prior year. 22% expected an increase during the coming year.

There had been apparent market changes since the 2015 report. At that time, just 5% of survey responders had anticipated an increase in LPN staffing levels during the coming year. 36% had anticipated decrease; they had given a variety of reasons, including decreased use of LPNs in acute care and conversion of positions from LPN to RN when new nurses were brought on board.

The LPN Scope of Practice

South Carolina's practice act outlines a general scope of practice; advisory opinions further delineate what they can be expected to do (http://www.llr.state.sc.us/POL/Nursing/index.asp?file=AdvisoryOp/AOIndex.htm). Some of the allowable duties are setting-specific. Some depend on training beyond the basic.

Among the general duties of the LPN are the following:

  • Collecting health data
  • Administering prescribed medications
  • Implementing interventions and assisting with evaluation of patient response
  • Doing basic health- and maintenance-related teaching
  • Delegating nursing tasks

South Carolina places some limits on the technical duties an LPN may carry out and also some limits on their level of autonomy. LPNs won't be the highest on the nursing supervisory chain of command. Still, there's a lot they can do.

The Board has issued advisory opinions about some acts (for example, removing sutures and staples) that are considered to be within the scope of the practical nurse and some that are not (for example, staging pressure ulcers).

IV push medications utilized in dialysis are specifically referenced as being appropriate when the LPN has had the needed training and conditions are otherwise appropriate – this makes the dialysis center a viable option.

Charge nurse duties and IV-related tasks are noted among those that would require additional Board-approved training. An LPN who acts as charge nurse in a skilled nursing facility or intermediate care facility will have an RN on call.

A South Carolina LPN does not do physical assessments. He or she may play a part in the assessment process, but some aspects, like synthesis and formation of nursing diagnoses, are considered to need an RN's level of expertise and judgment.

LPNs in Home and Community Settings

The Board has addressed the issue of supervision, noting that LPNs do sometimes work in settings where there is no on-site RN supervision and that this is alright in some circumstances. This level of practice, though, is beyond the basics and beyond what practical nursing programs can be expected to prepare one for. A practical nurse who works in a setting where there is not on-site supervision is expected to have a year of satisfactory experience and to have been evaluated and found competent by an RN. The Board has listed additional standards such as having an emergency plan in place. Some apply specifically to 1) home health and hospice settings or 2) school and juvenile justice settings. Among the standards noted for home health and hospice: that an RN perform the initial assessment. The LPN will need to notify an RN or doctor when there are changes in condition; a professional with higher credentialing will give further instructions.

The Board has also addressed some issues concerning care for patients with trachs. Basic trach-related care can be important for LPNs who serve medically fragile children in home and school settings, but training must be provided and competency addressed; availability of emergency services is among the factors determining appropriateness.

The South Carolina LPN Hiring Market

A scan of South Carolina job postings in mid-year 2018 reveals a tremendous variety in positions for which LPNs may be sought. The following are among the possibilities:

  • LPN for county disabilities board (with duties to include providing services in intermediate care and adult day care settings and offering direction and assistance to group home house managers)
  • Occupational health LPN (with duties to include providing first aid and carrying out various activities related to pre-employment physicals while working under the direction of an advanced practice nurse)
  • HEDIS nurse
  • Correctional facility nurse
  • LPN for urgent care physician practice
  • Clinical support specialist for a medical technologies company
  • Wellness director for an assisted living community
  • Resident care director for senior living

Becoming an LPN in SC

South Carolina practical nursing students can expect to complete about three semesters’ worth of courses. They will have a small amount of supportive general education coursework, but most of the LPN programs in SC will be focused on skills for nursing; nursing coursework ranges from foundational classes like human development on up to practical application. The prospective LPN need to pass a licensing exam.

LPN Salary in South Carolina and Career Outlook

South Carolina LPNs enjoyed an average wage of $19.42 an hour in 2017.

The practical nursing occupation has been projected to increase in South Carolina by 12% between 2014 and 2024 (by 2.8% between 2017 and 2019).

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