Becoming an LPN in West Virginia

For those who like helping people – and aren’t squeamish about blood – a practical nursing certificate can mean a short path to a rewarding career.

LPNs occupy a place on the career ladder above nursing assistant and below registered nurse. Unlike nursing assistants, they carry out skilled nursing procedures. There are a wide variety of patient care duties LPNs can take on, but their scope of practice is not at the level of RN. Scope of practice is more complicated than just a list of duties. RNs bear the ultimate responsibility for the analysis part of assessment. What tasks are appropriate for an RN to delegate to an LPN depends in part on context: whether a nurse can go through a particular set of actions and meet with the expected response.

It is sometimes appropriate for LPNs to be delegated specific tasks beyond those that were taught in the basic LPN program in West Virginia, but it’s not just a matter of how many years the LPN has been on the job. LPN must demonstrate competency. Sometimes this means additional education or formal training.

LPN Work Settings and Roles

A West Virginia job search turns up many positions in the following areas: long-term or extended care, home health, and ambulatory care. Employment in these settings is common around the nation. There are other settings possible.

Long-term care and extended care settings are the largest employer for LPNs nationwide. These facilities provide short-term post-acute care as well as true long-term care. The West Virginia Health Care Association has provided a directory of facilities organized by city (https://www.wvhca.org/consumers/find-a-care-facility/). It includes assisted living. The West Virginia Geriatric Education Center has provided information about the long-term care continuum, from assisted living to hospice (http://www.wvgec.org/publications/).

Ambulatory care settings are ones where people walk in and walk out within a relatively short time; they don’t need to stay overnight. LPNs employed in these settings carry out basic clinical duties and assist the practitioner. They often take health histories, collect specimens, and provide patient education. LPNs may assist with medical procedures. Clinic nurses may work in specialized settings (pediatrics, allergy and asthma, urgent care). Sometimes employers seek LPNs with the ability to float between clinics.

The following is a sampling of positions posted in West Virginia in early 2018:

  • In-home hospice nurse
  • Wellness manager for an assisted living facility
  • Private duty nurse for a child with a trach and G-tube
  • Psychiatric LPN
  • Patient trainer for in-home blood testing
  • Home health nurse to provide direct care to recently discharged patients
  • Emergency department nurse for a critical access hospital
  • Flu clinic nurse to administer influenza vaccine
  • Dispensing nurse for a drug treatment center
  • Correctional facility nurse

Most LPNs spend their time providing direct patient care. Some, though, have indirect care duties, for example, acting as unit charge nurse at a nursing home. Some employers have recently sought LPNs to act as care managers. A home health employer notes that care managers have a role in helping people avoid preventable hospitalizations and emergency room visits. These LPNs also help people understand preventative behaviors. A care manager in a home setting may also provide direct care.

Exemplary West Virginia Facilities

Multiple organizations provide data about long-term care providers: how good the care will be, what it’s like to live there… what it’s like to work there.

A number of West Virginia skilled nursing facilities were recognized by NRC Health in the workplace category in 2017. The following were recognized in both the resident satisfaction and associate satisfaction categories:

  • Lincoln Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Hamlin
  • Ohio Valley Health Care in Parkersburg
  • Summers Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Hinton
  • Wayne Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Wayne
  • Webster Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Cowen
  • Wyoming Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in New Richmond

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living offer a joint quality improvement and recognition program. One West Virginia facility, Teays Valley Center in Hurricane, achieved silver level in 2017. A number of West Virginia facilities have made it to bronze.

Career Advancement

Although West Virginia is among the states that has a separate Board for LPNs and RNs, one can still complete an LPN to RN program and make the transition. A promising LPN may even have the opportunity to do an accelerated program and be finished in one academic year. An additional licensing exam will be required.

LPN Salary in WV and Career Outlook

9% long-term LPN occupational growth has been predicted in West Virginia for the 2014 to 2024 decade.

West Virginia LPNs earned an average of $17.33 an hour in 2016 — potentially, $36,050 a year.

In general, wages for urban and non-urban parts of West Virginia are similar, but the average wage for the Parkersburg-Vienna area and the Weirton-Steubenville that straddles West Virginia and Ohio is a little above the average for the state.

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