Out of the Hospitals: LPN Career Projections
When Angie started out as an LPN twenty-six years ago, the first place she looked for a job was the local hospital. "It seemed like the obvious choice," she says. "Nearly everyone in my program got a job at a hospital."
Things have changed since Angie was a rookie nurse. Nowadays, the number of LPNs hired by hospitals is declining. Why? Chief among the reasons is the push to provide higher-quality nursing care in hospitals.
How is the quality of nursing care determined? One way is through Magnet status. The American Nursesâ€™ Credentialing Center (ANCC) awards Magnet status to hospitals that qualify by providing an excellent level of nursing care based on specific criteria. So far, about 300 hospitals have been awarded the Magnet status.
"No LPNs Need Apply"
Hospital administrators who are hoping to qualify are starting to hire registered nurses in preference to LPNs. Registered nurses have a higher level of education, more hours of clinical training, and a greater scope of practice. Financially, it makes sense too: because of an RN's greater scope of practice, a hospital can often save time and money by hiring one RN rather than several LPNs.
Some hospitals are even going so far as to replace LPNs with RNs and to install a "no LPNs" policy. In February 2009, Mercy Health Partners laid off over 30 LPNs and hospitals officials announced that LPNs would no longer be employed, according to an article published on mlive.com by John W. Stephenson.
Does the trend to hire RNs in hospitals spell bad news for new LPNs?
Angie, the nurse quoted at the beginning of this article, is now the manager of a long term care center in Eldorado Springs, Colorado. She graduated from the online LPN to BSN degree program, and then went on to earn a MSN in Nursing Management. She went on to tell me that she gets a "special satisfaction" in her new position by being able to hire "lots and lots of LPNs".
Outpatient services are on the rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of LPNs is projected to grow faster than the national average--14 percent between 2006 and 2016. However, the bulk of new jobs will be in long term care facilities and home health care services.
Long Term Care Facilities: The number of elderly people will grow in the decades to come, and there will be an increased need for long-term care. Nursing care facilities also serve as an in-between stage for patients who have been discharged from hospitals but are not yet well enough to head home. LPNs will be in demand to provide care for these patients.
Home Health Care Services: Again, because of the growing number of elderly people, home health care is becoming more popular and will continue to do so. Older people are more likely to have functional disabilities that require constant supervision yet are not serious enough to preclude them from living in their own homes. Moreover, technological advances now make it possible to use complex treatments in the home at an increasingly affordable cost to the consumer.
Other Health Care Settings: What if you don't want to work in either of those settings? Don't worry; although you may find it trickier to score a hospital job as an LPN, you still have other options. Many procedures that used to be performed only in hospitals are now being done in physiciansâ€™ offices and in outpatient care centers. Just as in home health care, technology advances have much to do with this shift. Since LPNs often care for patients who undergo such procedures, employment of LPNs is expected to grow faster than average in ambulatory surgical centers, emergency medical centers, and other non-hospital settings.
The Bottom Line: If you're a new LPN, be aware that hospital jobs might be scarcer. Keep an open mind and explore the diverse possibilities in other health care settings. If your heart is set on working in a hospital, consider pursuing your RN degree online while you work in another setting. This will give you the chance to gain valuable real-world experience, earn an income, and pursue your long term goal without missing a beat.