To become an LPN you have to do more than simply read a few books and memorize the information contained within. In order to become an LPN you also need to complete the required LPN clinicals. It is impossible to be an LPN if you do not, at some point in your training, engage in practice, hands-on clinical work to get the necessary experience you need to be a successful LPN.
Overview Of LPN Clinicals
Every nurse who aims to be an LPN has to do clinical work. There are several different areas that you could focus on when doing your LPN clinicals, but there are also a few topics and procedures that you will definitely cover regardless of what specialization you would one day like to hold as a nurse. These are general skills that you need to have in order to be an effective LPN. These include patient care, administration, gaining general experience, and learning what your professional duties and boundaries as a Licensed Practical Nurse will be.
Caring For Patients
This should seem like an obvious outcome of doing an LPN clinical. LPN clinicals are primarily aimed at ensuring that the nurses in an LPN program are able to effectively take the theory that they have learned and put it into practice in a real life situation. In LPN clinicals you will be repeatedly faced with the opportunity to actually deal with real live patients who need your care. This is the essential component involved in preparing you for a career in the field of licensed practical nursing. This part of your practical studies will occur in two parts:
- Firstly you will closely observe nurses with current LPN licenses performing the daily patient care tasks that will one day be your responsibility.
- As the training program progresses you will begin to take the reins and the responsibility for the patient and actually perform the patient care activities yourself.
Doing Administrative Work
Something that prospective LPNs often do not realize is that the job requires quite a lot of administrative work form your side. There is a lot of paperwork that goes into nursing and to a large degree this paperwork will be your responsibility. LPN clinicals will specifically train you to perform administrative duties in a medical setting. The tasks that you will be expected to become proficient in during your LPN clinical practice training will probably include some if not all of the following:
- Filling out paperwork
- Writing down medical histories
- Maintaining medical records
- Tracking inventory and supplies
- Answering phone calls
- Scheduling appointments
Administrative duties are a part of the nursing profession that you cannot hope to escape from, so it is important that you prepare yourself for a great deal of practical work in this area.
Getting Professional Experience
Clearly the main point of LPN clinicals is to provide you with a level of experience in the field of nursing that you otherwise would not have had. Specifically they aim to provide you with experience about how to behave in a professional healthcare environment. In your clinicals you may frequently be expected to work alongside healthcare professionals. This will help you to develop the necessary interaction and communication skills required for the profession. As an LPN you will have to deal with professionals on a daily basis, so this is a good practice. This will help you to:
- Learn how to follow directions from RNs and doctors
- Learn how to communicate with RNs and doctors
- Become familiar with the required protocol and etiquette for a medical setting such as the kind you will encounter in your career as an LPN
Learning Specialized Duties
Your LPN clinicals are a perfect place for you to focus on acquiring skills for your future specialty as an LPN, or even as an RN. It is important that you try your best to take LPN clinicals that will help you prepare for the line of work that you would specifically like to become involved in. For example if you aim to one day work in a doctor’s office you should focus more intensively on the administrative duties that you will be required to do in an LPN clinical than on the emergency room skills that you will pick up on. In addition, if you want to work with the elderly try to do as many of your clinicals in retirement homes as you can so that you can gain as much experience with that portion of the population as you can.
Specialized LPN Clinicals
In addition to the general LPN clinicals that most LPNs do there are a number of what you could refer to as specialized LPN clinicals that are aimed at preparing you for a particular area of the healthcare domain that you would like to specialize in. In many cases you may not be able to choose which LPN clinical you can do, but if you are think carefully about whether or not you are interested in a particular aspect of nursing more than others and make an effort to do LPN clinicals that are specifically focused on that area of nursing.
If you want to work in the emergency department of a hospital at some point in the future you should try for LPN clinicals that will prepare you for an emergency situation.
Important things that you will learn in an emergency LPN clinical include appropriate hand hygiene, how to check and monitor vital signs, the best methods of oxygen administration, how to conduct a head to toe assessment of a patient, how to take a patient history, the skills and procedures involved in catheterization, skills surrounding stitches, how to do IV insertions, how to draw blood, and, last but not least, learn how to set up hospital rooms.
Time is extremely important in these situations. One of the personality requirements you will need to have is an ability to manage your time well. You will also need to be able to keep a clear head.
In the modern world we have many different ways of confirming or denying a diagnosis in patient, including things such as MRI monitors and CAT scans. Many LPN clinicals may focus on how to use these methods as well as how to operate the equipment required. In a real life situation LPNs are not responsible on their own for performing imaging procedures, but you may be required to assist. This is something that many LPNs find very interesting and you may therefore be interested in specializing in this area.
When it comes to imaging techniques and procedures one of the personality traits that could stand you in good stead is an attention to detail. As an LPN you will not be the primary person involved in imaging, but your input will be noted and you may be required to note your observations.
Medical Surgical Ward
If you want to work in the medical surgical ward you need to be prepared for hustle and bustle. The things that you may have to learn in this ward include: hand hygiene, how to assist with ADL’s, checking & monitoring VS, monitoring I&O, taking and observing daily weights, head to toe assessment, oxygen administration, giving subcutaneous injections, giving intramuscular injections, how to remove a nasogastric tube, how to discontinue an IV, how to do dry and wet dressing changes, how to engage in patient education, how to administer medications, how to use things like the E-MAR, how to help to discharge a patient, and how to create the necessary documentation.
Because this is usually a very busy floor to work on your ability to multi-task and not get flustered will stand you in good stead. Time management and organizational skills will allow you to get everything done that needs to be done.
LPN clinicals will give you the opportunity to observe experienced nurses giving medications. In these clinicals you will learn about:
- What medications need to be given to which situations and in what situations
- How to crush the medication so that it is easier for the patient to take
- How to change the taste of the medication in order to make it easier for a patient to take
This is one of the most important clinicals you will do as an LPN as the medication that you give to your patients is an essential part of the healing process and a mistake could be fatal.
Because a mistake can be so dangerous you will need attention to detail as well as the patience to take your time when administering medications so that you can stand a higher chance of avoiding errors.
If you are interested in cancer and how to treat it, then you may want to focus on specialized LPN clinicals in the oncology ward of the healthcare facility where you are doing your practical work. In addition to many of the basic tasks that you will perform in most situations you will also have the opportunity to see things such as bone marrow biopsies, see how cancer patients receive chemotherapy via an IV, and, perhaps most importantly, learn ways to make chemotherapy easier for people.
Because chemotherapy is such a terrible ordeal to get through you will need to have a lot of empathy. In addition to this you will need to have good interpersonal and communication skills so that you can best serve the emotional needs of your patient during this difficult time.
Gerontology means working with the elderly. If this is an area that you are particularly interested in you should focus on LPN clinicals that involve the elderly and perhaps even try to do the clinical portion of your studies in a retirement home. In these homes you will learn appropriate hand hygiene, how to check and monitor vital signs, the best methods of oxygen administration, how to conduct a head to toe assessment of a patient, assist with ADL’s, administer medications to the elderly patients, give subcutaneous injections, help with feeding during meal times, do the occasional tube feeding, and do oxygen administration.
To work in this area of healthcare you will need practically same personality skills and attributes as you would for cancer as these patients are also facing the question of inevitable death. A love for people in general and for the elderly in particular will stand you in good stead in this area of the health care profession.
Obstetrics And Maternity
This is a popular LPN clinical as it involves working with pregnant women and their babies. In a clinical in obstetrics or maternity up will learn how to check and monitor vital signs, give baby baths, help with a hearing tests, change diapers, help the mother with breast feeding, bring babies to and from their mothers, what is involved in a vaginal delivery of a baby, how a mother is stitched up after a c-section, how to do assessments for abnormalities, measure and record the baby’s height & weight, how to clean and prepare baby stations, now to view APGAR scoring, and how to use ABC’s.
You will need a love of children as well as a naturally caring personality in order to work as an LPN in this regard.
As you can see you may have the opportunity to have a fair amount of freedom in your choice of which LPN clinical you would like to do as an LPN in training. Just keep in mind that you will need to have a certain kind of personality for each of the different areas of specialization. If you are really set on a course of action make sure that you have clearly thought about what the position in that specialty will in fact entail in the long run. Your specialty is not a decision to be made lightly.