Licensed Practical Nurses: A Dying Breed?

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media , April 12, 2011

North Shore-LIJ planned ahead and let its staff know that within 10 years, it would phase out the role. LPNs were offered the opportunity to pursue their RN degrees, which would be paid for by the organization, or to be placed in non-licensed positions.

“Roughly 75% of the LPNs decided to take us up on the offer to go back to school,” says White. “They achieved their licensure for RN and many of them are currently working with us as RNs.”

“There were some that were toward the end of their careers and we allowed them to stay in their position as LPN knowing that RNs on their floors would have to watch over their patients as well, doing the assessment, diagnostics, interventions etc. As those people retired, we filled those positions with registered nurses.”

The small portion who didn’t fit that category and who did not want to go back to school were helped to find other roles within the organization. White said no one lost a job as the result of the decision and that there were roles that could easily be performed by LPNs, such as dialysis technicians or OR technicians, which are unlicensed roles.

Despite the move away from the LPN in acute care, the role as a whole is in no danger of going away. U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts LPN ranks will grow by 21% from 2008 to 2018. The bulk of this growth is post-acute care, where patients do not require the skilled assessment and complex critical thinking needed from RNs.

 “I don’t know that it will completely die out because there are areas such as long-term care facilities that can utilize their skill sets,” says White. “In acute care facilities in the foreseeable future, I don’t see the LPN role as being a viable role. There will be smaller numbers required.”


Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits www.StrategiesForNurseManagers.com and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at rhendren@hcpro.com.
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4 comments on "Licensed Practical Nurses: A Dying Breed?"


Sandy Partain (2/2/2016 at 9:26 AM)
Rebecca, I do agree with the other writers.. Please check your facts before stating this insulting information. I have worked as a LPN and known many other LPNs who have functioned professionally in all areas of patient care. I currently have a staffing company for healthcare providers. The hospitals, clinics and long term care facilities are eager to request an LPN when the job description allows. It keeps their overhead down. I have several LPNs who are extremely proficient in their skills and are continuously preferred over the high paid RN. Again please check your facts.

Jack Steffen (12/18/2015 at 7:13 PM)
This is all about money, as most things in this world today are. Hospitals stand to gain millions of dollars if they convert to all RN staffing. Hospitals of course don't want to miss out on any of this money. It's not about nursing skills or so called critical thinking. As an LPN who does patient assessments, med passes, wound and respiratory care, I would consider it an insult to be categorized as "unlicensed personnel". But some people don't care about that - this is what money and the chase for it does to people. As another commenter here noted this story was probably written by someone with a vested interest in seeing LPNs eliminated for more money.

Joanna Schlabotz (5/22/2013 at 6:29 AM)
I just read an article that linked to this one and I must say I'm appalled at the misinformation and defaming of LPNs. To even mention the subject of a process that goes on in one's mind (that would be "thinking" Rebecca, critical or otherwise) as something that can be measured shows a decided lack of the same in the author. In short, Rebecca, I believe this site is most likely sponsored by someone with a stake in the issue. Sometimes it takes time to peel the onion, but it will be done nonetheless for the benefit of unknowing readers who are unaware of how unscrupulous these groups can be.

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