The recognition will be well deserved, although long in coming — two centuries long, actually.

In honor of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, the World Health Organization (WHO) has proposed designating 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

The proposal, which will be presented for approval by the organization’s 72 member states (including the U.S.) in May 2019, seeks to raise the stature of nursing professionals worldwide and inspire more people to enter the profession. Nurses and midwives account for more than 50% of the healthcare workforce in many countries, according to WHO; but the organization anticipates in the coming decade there will be too few nurses to meet growing healthcare needs and improve health outcomes around the world. WHO projects a more than 50% shortfall of nurses internationally by 2030.

Deserving Recognition

The 2020 Year of the Nurse declaration is welcome news in the U.S., where such organizations as the National League for Nursing, the American Nurses Association, the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) and others have long pushed for recognition of nurses’ vital contribution to quality healthcare and improved health outcomes.

Those efforts have largely been successful in the U.S, particularly in the last few decades. Nurses’ unique combination of clinical expertise and ethical, compassionate care has earned the trust of their colleagues and the public at large. Nurses have ranked No. 1 in the American public’s trust and confidence for 17 years running.

For the most part, the praise has centered on registered nurses. The nursing profession has increasingly concentrated on strengthening and promoting the ability of RNs and advanced practice RNs to meet the complex challenges of 21st century healthcare. That focus has supported the replacement of team-based nursing models with primary care nursing, encouraged a shift to entry-level practice at the bachelor-degree level, and emphasized raising the number of master’s and doctorate prepared nurses.

Too often, the discussion of nursing’s evolving role — and the accolades the profession receives — leave out a vitally important member of the nursing team: the LVN.

A Vital Team Member

RNs outweigh LVNs in scope of practice and number (3 million RNs versus 700,000 LVNs/LPNs, according to Bureau of Labor (BLS) statistics), but LVNs share their RN counterparts’ commitment to safe, quality, evidenced-based patient care and improved patient outcomes. Although the overall number of practicing LVNs has fallen in the U.S., future demand for LVN services is rising. BLS predicts LVN employment will grow by 12% through 2026, a faster rate than forecasted for other occupations. While their practice is limited in scope compared with their RN colleagues, LVNs continue to hold a valued, integral place in the healthcare provider mix in the U.S. and abroad, particularly in the care of aging adults and other vulnerable populations requiring chronic care.

In Praise of LVNs

As worldwide celebrations of the nursing profession in 2020 (or, for that matter, any annual National Nurses Week recognition activities in the U.S.) get under way, healthcare institutions, providers, and the public should be encouraged to give high-fives to LVNs. After all, WHO hasn’t proposed next year as the Year of the Registered Nurse but rather a year to honor the contributions of all nurses, regardless of education or practice level, to the health and well-being of our local and global communities.

Take note of these little-known (or frequently forgotten) aspects of LVN careers and share them with others to help these nurses gain the recognition and respect they deserve.

Not all LVNs are wanna-be RNs

LVNs share a long and proud history dating back to Florence Nightingale’s founding of modern nursing practice in the 19th century. (Associate-degree nursing education and the RN designation didn’t come around until the 1950s). While some LVNs continue their education to become RNs — often to secure the higher wage afforded RNs — practicing LVNs appreciate the varied responsibilities of their role and the opportunity to provide the direct, hands-on care to patients that many RNs, in their advancing roles as care leaders, frequently miss in their own practice. LVN practice involves basic bedside care, but it’s not just emptying bedpans. Depending on the state in which they are licensed, LVNs take vital signs, prepare and administer medications, monitor patients and report adverse reactions to medications or treatments, apply dressings, perform routine lab tests, and more. Some even work closely with  the physicians on staff gaining a unique perspective of hands-on care of patients. They gain on-the-job satisfaction from their close proximity to patients and direct participation in nursing’s core values of promoting health, healing, and hope to those under their care. LVNs also have exceptionally varied choices of working environments, from MD clinics (primary care, specialty, etc.), to hospitals, urgent cares, school nursing and administration. There are many opportunities for professional growth.

RNs can learn from LVNs

Thinking back, many RNs would admit that when they first started their nursing careers, LVNs could run circles around them. Seasoned LVNs in particular have amassed patient care experiences that, coupled with their training, allow them to assess a patient’s condition and pinpoint changes with precision and expertise. LVNs possess a wealth of patient care wisdom from which RNs benefit.

LVN practice supports the further development of RN practice

Without LVNs’ handling of routine patient care activities, today’s RNs would be overwhelmed with responsibility. LVNs’ focus on bedside care paves the way for RNs to take on leadership roles and practice to the full extent of their advanced education.

LVNs are a model of diversity

Research has demonstrated a link between the diversity of healthcare providers and increased patient satisfaction, improved communication between practitioners and patients, and better access to healthcare services for minority patients. The nursing profession in particular has identified diversity among practitioners as essential to the delivery of culturally competent care. Data from the National Nursing Workforce Study reveals LVNs/LPNs are more racially and ethnically diverse than RNs. In the study, 29% of LVNs/LPNs identified as racial minorities, compared with just 19% of RNs.

LVNs still have roles in acute care

The number of LVNs employed in hospitals has drastically fallen since the advent of managed care and the shift to primary care nurse staffing models. The highest percentage (32%) of LVNs currently work in long-term care settings; and growth forecasts for LVNs point to opportunities in community-based settings and home care. Even so, acknowledging that a strong, stable LVN workforce avoids overtaxing already burdened RNs, some acute care institutions and clinics have renewed efforts to hire qualified LVNs. Forward-thinking healthcare organizations recognize the value LVNs bring to quality patient care. Eisenhower Health, a leader in quality care in the Coachella Valley, is currently seeking LVNs to become part of its recognized nursing teams. Visit our Careers page for current LVN openings.

Originally posted on 15/4/2019

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