Becoming an LPN in Utah

Licensed Practical Nurses provide direct nursing care to many of Utah’s most vulnerable residents. Ogden Weber Technical College notes that the LPN role includes helping people stay nourished and oxygenated and assisting them with mobility, hygiene, and elimination. LPNs perform basic sterile and non-sterile procedures.

The Utah Board has laid out LPN scope of practice in a general way. Much of what has been defined is the cognitive aspects. LPNs can carry out focused assessments. LPNs can also act as faculty when content falls under their area of expertise. An LPN might teach medication assistants.

LPNs have more nursing training than Certified Nursing Assistants in Utah and can carry out duties that they can’t. They can also delegate to nursing assistants. An LPN’s training and scope is below that of RN, though, and well below that of advanced practice nurse. It’s a quick route into nursing. Practical nursing coursework may take less than a year. At the end of the training period, the person will take a licensing examination (LPN programs in Utah).

Utah boasted 2,741 LPN licensees in 2018, only about 10% as many as RNs, though more than advanced practice nurses.

An Overview of the Utah Practical Nursing Workforce

The Utah Medical Education Council, the state’s nursing workforce center, conducted an employer survey in 2015 (https://nursing.utahmec.org/wp-content/uploads/Demand-for-Nurses-in-Utah-FINAL.pdf). Of interest were the places where nurses and nursing assistants were working and also the arenas where there were current and projected vacancies.

Two industries emerged as the dominant employers of nurses at the LPN level: skilled nursing facilities/ long-term care (38%) and home health and hospice (36%). Hospitals and health systems employed 16%; this category includes a wide range of settings, including psychiatric hospitals and Federally Qualified Health Centers.

At the time of the survey, assisted living settings employed just 2% of the total LPN workforce. The vast majority of the direct care workers in this setting were nursing assistants.

UMEC also prevents data another way, by skill mix, from nursing assistant on up to advanced practice nurse. In no setting did LPNs constitute a majority of the total nursing staff. However, there were some where they constituted a larger portion than others — and some where there was more current and projected need.

It was in assisted living where the greatest change in active capacity was foreseen, percentage-wise: fully 32%. In simple terms, these facilities were set to increase their hiring of LPNs in the coming year. This is consistent with a national trend of placing more nurses into assisted living settings. Home health was listed with a potential change of 28%. Given the number of LPNs employed in these settings, that could translate into a lot of openings. The potential change in active capacity was also significant in skilled nursing and long-term care facilities: 16%. (It is important to note that this is the type of data that can change a good deal from year to year.)

Percentage-wise, the figure was lower for hospitals and health systems. Around the nation, these have represented a declining market for LPNs in recent years. Still there was some potential to increase active capacity in Utah.

UMEC notes that there are many organizations grouped into the ‘other’ category. Among them are doctor’s offices, specialty clinics, and behavioral health and drug rehabilitation centers. These facilities do indeed hire LPNs.

Noteworthy Utah Facilities

In 2017, three Utah assisted living facilities received recognition in the workplace category through NRC Health: Wentworth-Las Vegas, Wentworth-East Millcreek, and St. Joseph Villa Assisted Living Facility; the latter two are both located in Salt Lake City. One Utah skilled nursing facility received similar recognition: Mt. Ogden Health & Rehabilitation Center in Ogden.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issues star ratings for certified nursing facilities, home health agencies, and hospices (https://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html?).

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Spotlight on Home Care

Home care nurses may care for pediatric populations as well as adult ones. The job can include caring for children who have seizures and those who require health equipment such as trach, vent, or G-tube. One company that recently advertised in Utah noted that children with cerebral palsy and neurological compromise were among those who might receive their services.

A similar role is serving children with severe health needs in school settings.

Many people who receive nursing care at home are of course elderly. Medicare recipients may be approved for intermittent/ short-term care after an acute healthcare episode. Nurses who provide this type of care typically travel from home to home.

LPNs are sometimes considered for home health care manager positions as well as those in direct patient care. A care management position could entail medication management and patient education, among other duties.

Recent LPN Job Postings

Actual positions are quite varied. The following are among the options advertised in Utah in March of 2018:

  • Home care provider for people who had become chronically ill as a result of their jobs
  • Department of Corrections nurse
  • Nurse (at the LPN level or higher) to teach patients how to do finger stick blood samples
  • Dispensing nurse to administer medication for a medication-assisted drug treatment program

As expected, there are a number of positions in long-term and sub-acute care.

Career Advancement

Articulation agreements make it easier for nursing students to progress to the next higher level. A substantial percentage of Utah RNs who responded to a recent survey cited employers as a source of funding for their RN education in Utah – 33%. Not every employer is able to offer this, of course. Federal loans were another major funding source. It is very common to achieve LPN credentialing before RN credentialing (though not as common as it is to start as a nurse aide).

Some Utah employers list other types of specialized training among the perks – it’s not all about degrees and new licenses.

LPN Salary in Utah and Career Outlook

Utah LPNs earned a mean $20.54 an hour in 2016, somewhat above the national average.

Utah practical nursing has been projected to see 21% occupational growth across the 2014 to 2024 decade.

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