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The Voice of Nursing Education


October 15 - Our Vision for the LPN/LVN Workforce

XVI, Issue Number 17

October 15, 2014
Dear Colleague,

Do you remember the excitement on October 5, 2010, when the Institute of Medicine released its transformative report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health? I certainly do, but I find it hard to believe that four years could pass so quickly.

These have been amazing years for nursing and nursing education. We welcomed the report's recommendations, and focused our attention on RN and APRN practice; advancing the education of entry-level nurses to the BSN and higher; and increasing the number of doctorally prepared nurses. At the NLN, we will keep our eye on that ball.

However it's also time to publicly add another agenda item to our Future of Nursing outlook, that is, the educational development of the LPN/LVN workforce. The significance of this agenda item aligns with recommendations for the transition of care from the hospital to the community.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of LPN/LVNs will grow 22 percent by 2020, faster than the average for all occupations, with an ongoing shift in employment from acute care to community-based settings. A lack of focus on PN education and the work of the LPN/LVN workforce could potentially have a negative effect on the quality and safety of patient outcomes for older adults and persons with chronic conditions requiring long-term care.

Currently, 70 percent of licensed care in nursing homes is provided by the LPN/LVN workforce. And a 2013 survey by the NCSBN showed that LPN/LVN graduates are working with ventilator-dependent children at home, in prisons with mentally ill, co-dependent patients, and with families in need of urgent care.

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With the NLN mission in mind – to build a strong and diverse nursing workforce to advance the health of our nation and the global community – it became apparent that our LPN/LVN colleagues must be part of the conversation on current practice and academic progression. We therefore engaged education and practice experts, with a wide range of practical nursing teaching and clinical experience, in efforts to develop guidelines to support learning in new clinical settings that align with workforce practice. The result is the latest document in the NLN Vision Series: "A Vision for Recognition of the Role of Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurses in Advancing the Nation's Health."

This new vision statement contains recommendations for PN administrators and faculty, as well as recommendations for the nursing education community. Colleagues, we are asking you to facilitate discussions about the essential role of the LPN/LVN workforce to meet emerging health care needs; collaborate with practice colleagues to design creative partnerships that assist PN students in gaining opportunities for clinical practice; and conduct research on the link between advanced education and quality and safety in health care settings that serve vulnerable populations. The NLN will continue to explore ways to align licensure processes with current LPN/LVN workforce employment trends and provide faculty development opportunities for PN educators.

I know this is a particularly hard time to suggest extending support in acquiring clinical training sites for any of our nursing colleagues. Clinical sites are few and far between, and developing innovative ideas for new, atypical clinical sites is part of the agenda for all nursing programs. Our practical nurse educator colleagues are working hard at doing just that. But in our quest for well-developed and educationally prepared practitioners in every part of our health care system, the thought that our PN colleagues are practicing in community care settings, working with older adults and very ill children, without any access to appropriate clinical sites, is not acceptable. Please read and share this latest NLN Vision statement. I know that you will give it some serious consideration and do all that you can.

And now I will bring up a favorite topic, surveys. Essential to our understanding of workplace trends and student populations are well-structured surveys. For that reason, I am pleased to introduce you to a brand new member of the NLN staff, senior research scientist Dr. Gideon Mazinga. Gideon earned his doctorate in social policy and social research from Loma Linda University in California, did a postdoc at the University of California Davis, and worked in Massachusetts for the Northern Essex Community College Office of Institutional Research and Planning before joining our staff at the end of September. His first project for the NLN is the upcoming Biennial Survey of Schools of Nursing. We are certainly glad, in fact delighted, that Gideon decided to move to Washington.

Before I close, let me say this about something that is on all our minds – the death last week in Texas of 42-year-old Thomas Duncan, who had been infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia, the illness announced this past weekend of Nina Pham, one of our nurses who cared for him, and the illness of a second nurse announced just this morning. I can't help thinking about Nina and her colleagues at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital – indeed, all who are on the frontline and the sidelines, the families and communities affected by the Ebola epidemic.

It is too soon to know what happened to cause the nurses' infection. But a great deal of misinformation is going around. We are the most trusted profession. It is incumbent on us as nurses, and as teachers of nurses, to educate ourselves about how Ebola is spread and safely treated and then share that information with others. Guidelines from the CDC and a fact sheet issued by the White House can be helpful.

It is important to point out that we are far more likely to come into contact with the Enterovirus D68, which is spreading across the country. The CDC also helps us understand this respiratory illness, which can cause severe symptoms in infants, children, and teenagers, and may cause death.

We must protect ourselves and others – wash our hands frequently and carefully and, of course, get a flu shot. And let's not forget that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. In this beautiful fall season, it's time to wear pink proudly, take the steps needed to detect the disease in its early stages, and encourage others to do the same. A contribution to the National Breast Cancer Foundation helps provide mammograms to women in need. As nurses, let's keep up the good fight, to deliver quality health care to all. Regardless of the season or the challenge, as nurses we stand ready to serve. I'm so proud to be counted among that number, so proud to be a nurse.

All best wishes,

Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN
Chief Executive Officer

Next Issue of the NLN Member Update: Wednesday, October 29.
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