Thinking of becoming a practical nurse? Here’s where to start.

In the current COVID landscape there has never been a greater need for essential workers like nurses. On the front lines, nurses provide irreplaceable care for individuals and families with a variety of needs, in a variety of settings. Nursing professions in Canada include practical nurses, registered nurses (RNs), nurse practitioners (NPs) and psychiatric nurses. 

The journey to become a practical nurse, often referred to as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Practical Nurse (RPN), depending on the province, typically begins at an accredited college. The two-year diploma is followed by a national licensing exam before a practical nurse can begin their career in healthcare. 

Once the exam has been successfully completed, a practical nurse may offer nursing services in an array of healthcare settings including long-term care, home care, community care and acute care. 

The responsibilities of a practical nurse.

The responsibilities of a practical nurse are centered in patient and client care but vary with each health-care setting. There are a great number of responsibilities that fall under the role of a practical nurse. According to the College of Nurses of Ontario, the four main categories of the nursing framework are: assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation. A few examples of these include (for a full list visit the College of Nurses of Ontario):

Assessment: 

Duties may include obtaining information like the health history of patients while maintaining a calm presence for patients regardless of their behavior.  

Planning: 

A practical nurse will use past experiences and clinical skills to recognize patterns in symptoms to communicate and inform other health-care team members to help make diagnoses.

Implementation: 

A practical nurse will perform a number of nursing interventions to promote, maintain and restore health and rehabilitation, prevent disease and injury and provide palliative care. A practical nurse will be called on to support clients during various procedures. For example:

  • Recording vital signs
  • Changing dressings on wounds
  • Preparing and administering medication
  • Collecting blood or urine samples from patients
  • Offering post-surgical care
  • Assisting patients to get out of bed and move or use toileting facilities
  • Performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • Delivering health education program

Evaluation: 

A practical nurse will use critical-thinking skills to modify care plans and respond to rapidly changing situations as needed. As an entry-level health practitioner, an LPN or an RPN is expected to evaluate a client’s health and whether their needs can be met by a practical nurse. The practical nurse’s skills will grow through collaboration from the healthcare team.

Qualifications to become a practical nurse.

There are a number of requirements you must meet in order to become a practical nurse. These include cognitive, interpersonal, ethical, behavioural, physical and perceptual requirements. The most common qualifications you can expect to find for practical nurse postings include:

  • Have a passion for working in the healthcare sector.
  • Maintain a current registration as an RPN or LPN with the provincial health regulatory college. 
  • Comprehensive knowledge of nursing and healthcare practices, as well as knowledge in Infection Control Practices.
  • Ability to work effectively individually and with others.
  • Ability to observe and make effective assessments of clinical issues and nursing interventions, then prioritize tasks to address the most urgent first. 
  • Valid first aid and CPR certificate.
  • Basic computer proficiency. 
  • Strong written and verbal English and/or French communication skills.
  • Strong organization, planning, time management and multi-tasking skills.

The intangibles: 

Here’s where you can really shine. Most postings for a practical nurse include the qualifications above, but there are some intangibles, sometimes called soft skills, that will help you stick out from the crowd. When employers are hiring practical nurses there are a few qualities that are consistently mentioned. The practical nurse applicant should:

  • Have the ability to work effectively under stress and within a variety of challenges.
  • Respect the patient’s decision about their care and their privacy.
  • Have integrity through open and honest interactions in the pursuit of common goals. 
  • Understand that others have different needs and perspectives and treat those individuals in a compassionate and supportive manner. 
  • Have proven examples of seeking out information from various sources and learning through shared experiences. 

Does this sound like you? If so, you might be just the person to fill the role of a practical nurse.

Stand out from the crowd: 

While there’s a high demand for essential workers and practical nurses given the COVID-19 pandemic, the more you can stand out from other applicants the better your chances of being able to land the exact job you want. Find and develop a specialty in a particular area. Whether it’s in pediatrics, geriatrics or oncology etc., this will assist you in your job search to be a practical nurse. 

Common Practical Nurse Interview Questions

Interview questions for a practical nurse vary from general to specific. To help you prepare for the practical nurse job-hunt, here are some common interview questions you might expect:

  1. What inspired you to apply for this practical nurse position? 
  2. How do you cope with stressful situations?
  3. Why do you want to work with us? 
  4. What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
  5. Have you ever experienced an emergency situation? What was it and how did you manage it?

Examples of more specific nursing questions one might get asked in a practical nurse interview:

  1. What are the stages of pressure wounds? 
  2. What might you do if a diabetic patient was cold, clammy and having tremors?
  3. How would you deal with an anxious patient or family member?
  4. What might you do if you do not agree with your RN?
  5. How might you prioritize care between _________ and __________?

 

What is a practical nurse?

The global pandemic has certainly shined a light on the exceptional need for nurses. A practical nurse is an essential worker; an entry-level health practitioner who can, and wishes, to provide care for an array of individuals in the community with an important combination of critical thinking and compassion. If this sounds like you, check out our postings in the healthcare field today.

Author:

Rena S.