Not "only an LVN

Having been an LVN for 30 years, it's been difficult to hear people say things like, "oh, you're only an LVN? as if that makes me less of a nurse or less of a professional; as if RN stands for Real Nurse. At the beginning of every LVN course with a new group of students I always tell them to be proud of their accomplishment at studying LVN nursing (LPN nursing), and that they will have worked very hard to earn their Vocational Nursing Diploma. And that they will have every reason to celebrate having achieved that goal. They are not "only anything.

I am very aware of my scope of practice as an LVN. I am aware of the interventions I may not do and that these procedures must be provided by a Registered Nurse, and I teach my students that. They are in fact working under someone else's license. They still must know that they will have a huge impact, be able to make real contributions professionally to patient care and health care in general, all while still staying within their scope of practice. It may take something as simple as a moment of communication, a touch or a smile to change a patient's day. And my students certainly can provide that as LVN's. LVN's (LPN's Licensed Practical Nurses) have a great deal to add to health care.

Many years ago in San Francisco, my mother was hospitalized as a young woman quite near death. She told me about a practical nurse, that's what they were called back then, who gave her a lovely bed bath, moisturized her skin with lotion, and positioned her in a sea of pillows. After that my mother slept for the first time in 5 days because she was clean, relaxed and comfortable. To me that is real nursing.

I've done many things in the maternal-child / women's health field that I know were important in my patient's care, and they were no less important than what an RN was providing. There are now more limitations in what LVN's can do in an acute care setting, but I feel that the pendulum will swing back when health care comes to the realization that there will not be enough RN's to provide adequate staffing as our aging population increases. Many families choose to provide for their ailing elderly family members by having them cared for in an assisted living facility or, if needed, a skilled nursing facility. VN's have large roles in each of these environments. Most skilled nursing centers are staffed predominantly by vocational nurses who provide hands-on patient care. I am pleased to feel that by teaching I am contributing to the future of vocational nursing, even though I am no longer at the bedside. Where I used to make a contribution to patient care at the bedside, I now feel I can help humanity by educating the nurses of the future.

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