Becoming an LPN in Virginia

Virginia has more than 30,000 nurses who are licensed at the LPN level; more than 27,000 are in the workforce. LPNs serve many, including people who have chronic needs or are convalescing after serious illness; they also assist those who require only primary care.

Virginia will continue to need dedicated practical nurses, even as older ones retire. WHSV has provided a profile of a healthcare worker still in training to become an LPN who is working at a retirement community, taking vitals, interacting with people, and helping them master life’s challenges (http://www.whsv.com/content/news/Learn-About-the-Demand-for-Licensed-Practical-Nurses-361471561.html). The reason for the profile? To attract other people-oriented career searchers to the profession!

An Overview of Virginia’s Practical Nursing Workforce

It is more common for LPNs to work with older adults than with any other population. However, a substantial subset report working with pediatric populations or general adult populations.

According to the Healthcare Workforce Data Center 2017 report, long-term care and assisted living settings constitute the primary work setting for 26% of Virginia’s LPNs (http://www.dhp.virginia.gov/hwdc/findings.htm#Nursing). Physician’s offices are the primary workplace for 13%; when one combine the number in physician’s offices and those in primary care or non-specialty clinics, it constitutes 24%. Small percentages also work in specialty clinics and hospital inpatient settings.

Home health care, another major industry, constitutes 11%. 5% work in hospital inpatient settings and 4% each work in rehabilitation facilities and correctional facilities.

Among the minority who also reported secondary employment, long-term care came out on top by an even higher margin. Home health was a more common form of secondary employment than primary employment; here it came out at 16%.

13% to 14% of Virginia LPNs report each of the following specialties: Long-Term Care/Assisted Living/Nursing Home and Geriatrics/Gerontology. Pediatrics and family health were in third and fourth place.

It is typical for a Virginia RN to spend 80% to 89% of his or her time delivering direct patient care, though there is a wide range. 10% report primary supervisory or administrative duties; another 1%, education.

Snapshot of a Small Health System

Many LPNs are hired by hospital systems, but generally for roles other than traditional hospital ones. In early 2018, Valley Health, which serves Winchester and multiple small towns in Northern Virginia, listed a number of LPN openings. Included were multiple positions at nursing facilities and several in home health. There were also several specialty positions, including one in medical rehabilitation and one in a vascular medical office. At least two positions included substantial duties outside traditional direct care. Among the positions sought was a Health Coach Coordinator, whose duties would include assisting with the transition between acute and sub-acute levels of care.

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Becoming an LPN and Advancing

Practical nursing is the shortest path to a nursing license. 96% of Virginia LPNs report education at the diploma or certificate level. It is becoming slightly more common for LPNs to hold a degree at the associate’s level than it was in years past (LPN programs in Virginia). Whatever their degree level, prospective LPNs take the NCLEX-PN examination.

Advancement to high levels typically entails an academic degree and a higher license. 15% of Virginia LPNs are enrolled in higher education programs, according to the most recent report. They are most often enrolled in associate’s programs, but bachelor’s programs are not uncommon.

Some nurses go far. The Times Virginian has profiled a former LPN, now Director of Nursing at a nursing facility. She began to climb the career ladder before achieving RN status; she was a charge nurse at the LPN level (http://www.timesvirginian.com/news/article_e4601bda-02a1-11e8-abb4-0ff59dee8161.html).

High-Caliber Healthcare Organizations

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/ NCAL) have a quality development program used by many facilities throughout the nation. Recognition is awarded at three progressive levels. Gold is a rare honor. One Virginia nursing facility, Inova Loudoun Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Leesburg, made it to gold in 2017. The facility was one of just three gold level recipients in the nation. Inova Loudon notes that in all the years since program inception, just 31 gold recipients have been recognized (https://www.inova.org/healthcare-services/long-term-care/lnrc/awards-recognition one).

NRC Health looks at nursing facilities from a worker’s perspective as well as a resident one. Three Virginia facilities, Heritage Hall in Clintwood and CCR Inc. Home Office and American Healthcare LLC, both located in Roanoke, were recognized in the associate category in 2017.

The Green House Model is a well-known model for providing person-centered care in small homelike facilities. Virginia boasts one facility, the Green House Homes at Woodland Park (part of the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community).

Career Outlook and Average LPN Salary in Virginia

The Virginia practical nursing profession has been projected to experience 21% occupational growth between 2014 and 2024.

While one will find practical nurses just about everywhere, practical nursing jobs are concentrated in particular areas of the state. 25% of worksites were in the Hampton Beach area. Another 21% were in Central Virginia.

Just 1% of Virginia’s renewing LPNs reported experiencing involuntary employment in 2017. Another 4% reported working in part-time or temporary positions when they sought something more.

Most Virginia LPNs are paid an hourly rate.

Virginia’s Licensed Practical Nurses averaged $19.93 an hour in 2016. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reached an annual figure of $41,450 by multiplying 40 hours a week by 52 weeks a year. In reality, the average for a Virginia LPN is about 38 hours a week over the course of 50 weeks. A slight majority of respondents (55%) reported 40 to 49 hours a week. The next most common was 30 to 39 hours.

There are of course ample rewards beyond the monetary. Many organizations seek to reward caregivers who excel and who truly care. Sentera Healthcare profiled an LPN Daisy Award winner in a recent annual report (http://sentaranursingreport.com/plan-for-the-future).

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