Finding Your Place as an LPN
The very moment I heard my name called letting me know I would be accepted into the Sowela practical nursing program, I was eager to decide on a specialty and where I would like to work. I had absolutely no idea if I would have any limitations an LPN as far as finding a job was concerned. I contemplated over the emergency room, surgery, or cardiac. Something “cool and exciting.” I would never have thought I would be a pediatric/mental health nurse and enjoying it as much as I do.
In my humble opinion, if you are in nursing school or a brand new LPN who just passed the NCLEX-PN, do not stress yourself over choosing a specialty. Nurses tend to feel obligated to choose a specialty or instantly know what they want to do with their career and end up disappointed in themselves for not being happy in that area or feel as though they made a poor decision. It is fairly common to work in all sorts of specialties and facilities as you move through your career. You will be able to experience most of the specialty areas during clinicals in the hospital and a few other types of atmospheres in the medical field. Use this time to your advantage! Keep notes of your likes, dislikes, good and bad experiences, and the different atmospheres you went to. BUT - do not fool yourself, clinicals do not compare to real life nursing. You will overwhelm yourself if you have different expectations for a job you get thinking it will be exactly how clinicals were. You will not know how you feel about an area or atmosphere until you get your feet wet. You will also not understand the numerous variables of hours and shifts until you start working as an LPN. Most hospitals work with 12-16 hour shifts, 3 days a week. Most clinics are Monday through Friday 8-5. There are many other types of shifts, but these are the only two I have experienced and can confirm. I prefer my clinic hours, Monday through Friday, 8-5, with a weekend every month or so.
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This is the beauty of nursing! The opportunities are endless, even for LPN’s.
Here are some examples of specialties and settings you may be able to be a part of as an LPN:
- Clinics (family practice, etc.)
- Nursing home
- Correctional facilities
- ER and urgent care
- Pediatrics, PICU, NICU
- Labor & Delivery, OB/GYN offices
- Mental health, addiction, rehab
- Wound care
- Plasma centers
- Home health, hospice
- Ortho, neuro, cardiac etc.
- Travel nursing
Learn more about LPN work settings.
So, do you believe me yet? You will never be stuck in an area you are not satisfied with. One of my instructors always said, “You never know if you’ll be happy or unhappy with a job, so you should always have a backup plan in case you have to get out of there quick!”
No nurse is created equal. We all have different skill strengths and weaknesses, interest in different specialties, and personality traits that work better with certain atmospheres. Are you okay with high-stress and fast-paced or relaxed and steady? You will learn quickly what you can handle. Each and every single one of us has a place to be that can benefit our patients. We will always be needed in the medical field.
Most hospitals require 1-2 years of experience on a Med/Surg floor. In nursing school, we were basically force-fed med/surg and it left a terrible taste in my mouth. I fully agree that it is a necessary evil to get the training you need in order to function as a nurse and I learned a lot from it, but I knew I did not want to work on this floor. I was so relieved that my office hired me on the spot without any experience other than being a CNA for a year in cardiac. So be prepared and read the job ads carefully! Most will make it very clear you need this experience but it would not hurt to still apply. You never know what might happen.
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I most certainly LOVE my jobs and the atmosphere I am in. I use 90% of the skills I acquired in school, I am highly satisfied with my schedules, and I thrive in the chaos when we get busy. With that being said, if I ever find myself unhappy, I would have peace of mind knowing it is ridiculously easy for LPN’s to find a job. You aren’t stuck. You will always be learning, growing, and changing so it would make sense that your job decisions may change as well. To the new nurses, it is my advice to think more about the opportunities to learn and gain experience instead of focusing on finding a job in that one specialty. By all means, go for it and apply, but do not get discouraged if you cannot start where you believe you want to be. You may surprise yourself just like I did when I chose the areas I am in. Being an LPN is an exciting journey and it is such a sweet feeling when you find where you belong in our crazy nurse world.
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