The Work of Practical Nurses in a Nursing Home

This essential healthcare role makes a difference in the lives of many patients

If you’re considering a career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN), one of the environments where you would be qualified to work is a nursing home. In working directly with patients, LPNs provide everyday care at the bedside. This is especially essential in an environment like a nursing home, where patients are generally living long-term.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than a third of LPNs work in nursing and residential care facilities. The aging of the current population and the growing needs of those who are disabled translates into a need for practical nurses in these environments. Here we offer an overview of the LPN profession, as well as some insight into what this work looks like in a nursing home.

An overview of the LPN profession

LPNs do training over and above what a traditional nursing assistant might learn. Working in conjunction with a Registered Nurse (RN), they assess patients’ health, offer basic nursing care, do administrative work, develop treatment plans, and sometimes supervise nurses’ aids. With much of an LPN’s care, the bottom line is maintaining the patient’s level of comfort. It can be a highly demanding job physically, given the need to move patients out of bed or into more comfortable positions.

A range of duties

LPNs are expected to handle clinical as well administrative duties.

Clinical skills might include:

  • helping patients to eat, bathe, and dress
  • taking vital signs: recording blood pressure, temperature, respiration rate, oxygen level, and pulse
  • wound care: cleaning, medicating, and dressing patients’ wounds
  • catheters: inserting and removing them, as well as cleaning catheter sites
  • injections: administering medications and starting IVs
  • CPR
  • observation and evaluation of patients before and during treatment

Practical nurses not only care for patients, but are often responsible for cleaning their rooms as well, as part of managing their overall environment, given that they may not be able to do this for themselves. Some LPNs may assist patients with doing physical therapy exercises they may have been assigned.

Administrative skills for practical nurses can include:

  • using technology, such as word processing and spreadsheets but also EHR (electronic health records). This might also include data entry.
  • conveying details about the changing needs for care, such as when additional treatment might be needed
  • communicating with patients as well as family members, by explaining conditions, medications, and treatments
  • interacting effectively with physicians, other nurses, other healthcare professionals
  • maintaining safe and sanitary conditions, to prevent infections and keep patients secure at all times.

Patients LPNs encounter in nursing homes

Unfortunately, what sets a nursing home apart from hospitals and other healthcare settings is that the patients will be there long-term and are not expected to improve. Work in a nursing home generally means close interaction with an older and often vulnerable population. A patient may come to a nursing home as a result of a medical event, such as a stroke, or may have reached a plateau in their progress after receiving treatment and rehabilitation. Other patients may be in a nursing home because the family is simply unable to care for them at home. An LPN provides ongoing, day-to-day care to these patients, so that they can maintain quality of life despite any physical limitations.

Coordinating with other professionals

Being an LPN is a special blend of hands-on patient care and teamwork with other healthcare professionals, with whom LPNs engage in daily discussions about improving the care patients receive. Work in a nursing home often requires interacting with physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, and case managers, among others.

Offering companionship

One of the aspects of practical nursing is providing companionship to patients, which can look very different depending on the preferences of the individual patient. Some will want quiet company while they read or watch television, while others will be eager to engage in conversation. The LPN will need to work out what will best serve the needs of each patient, so patience and attentiveness are useful skills.


There are several advantages to working as a practical nurse in a nursing home. LPNs in these environments tend to develop close relationships with the people they care for over time, which can be highly gratifying. There is a fair amount of variety in the job, and you’ll regularly be physically active in your duties. If you like being part of a team, and working together to devise solutions and solve problems, this is a good choice.

Work schedules

Work schedules at nursing homes vary by the facility. In many cases practical nurses work either 8- or 12-hour shifts, which tend to rotate.

If a nursing home sounds like a professional environment in which you think you would thrive, look into Practical Nursing programs at career schools like the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health. Our program involves coursework that you can complete in about one year. We hope to hear from you, and wish you the best of luck, whatever you decide!

This post is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health, located in Manchester, NH. We’re dedicated to helping all our students pursue their career goals, offering a number of different professional training programs. Visit us online to learn more, or reach out to schedule a campus tour by calling (603)622-8400.