In an effort to address existing workforce shortages, Northwestern Delnor Hospital in Geneva is piloting a program that brings a staff member familiar with healthcare life back: a licensed practical nurse.
If successful, the pilot program could be expanded, hospital officials said. The pilot program is the health system’s way of bringing back Licensed Practical Nurses – at one time a staple used in the hospital setting as a means of providing support to licensed RNs, who traditionally receive more training than a LPN – to help offset a growing need for work.
Gina Reid Tinio, chief nursing officer at Delnor, said the hospital has seen greater vacancies in patient care support roles because student nurses, who often fill these jobs, end up work as registered nurses.
“We needed to look for a more permanent solution to complete this important job. We are exploring whether reintroducing LPNs to the inpatient care team can help us fill these gaps so that we can continue to optimally meet the needs of our patients,” she said.
Licensed Practical Nurses will work under the watchful direction of a Registered Nurse to meet the needs of healthcare workers in the hospital. LPNs perform basic patient care duties and help keep patients comfortable.
Now the health system is recruiting these nurses from Delnor.
Nurse Justin Gray, director of Delnor’s clinical unit, said the pilot program is looking for new ways to support current team members. He said LPNs can support registered nurses by responding to call lights and helping patients with tasks that patient care technicians are unable to do.
“It’s exciting to open up our labor pool to LPNs and leverage their skills to help our RNs deliver an exceptional patient experience,” he said. “This support is particularly useful when an AI may be in the middle of something that it cannot immediately walk away from. LPNs have the added skill of spending quality time with patients and have developed a talent for caring bedside conversations. Our teams are equipped to do this now, but adding additional support staff can take our compassionate care to the next level.
According to the Illinois Nursing Workforce Center, LPNs more frequently practice in nursing and residential care facilities. In Illinois in 2021, 51% of LPNs practice in long-term care, rehabilitation, or assisted living, 16% are outpatients, 10% are home health, and 3% are school nurses.
Data collected by the Workforce Center that surveyed LPNs from November 8, 2020 through February 1, 2021 shows an average salary range for Illinois nurses is $25,000 to $55,000. According to survey results, 48% of LPNs received training at a community college.
LPNs go through a year-long training program, often at community colleges, and must pass the National Licensing Examination (NCLEX-PN). They are skilled in daily patient care, including recording vital signs, monitoring patient condition, changing dressings, administering most medications, assisting with feeding, bathing and dressing, and patient comfort.
Reid Tinio said acute care hospitals haven’t used LPNs in a while, but hopes they can not only provide support but help with nursing workflow.
“This pilot project is one facet of our goal to innovate in redesigning the delivery of inpatient care to provide the best service, safety and quality to our patients,” she said.
A Northwestern Medicine job description calls for applicants to have clinical and nursing experience and to work under the direction of physicians or registered nurses to treat and assess patients, while maintaining standards of nursing practice. practice mandated by the American Nursing Association.