A Day in the Life of a Practical Nurse | Salter School of Allied Health and Nursing
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A Day in the Life of a Practical Nurse

day in the life as a practical nurse, lpnFind out how these healthcare professionals spend their days

If you ask a practical nurse (or LPN) what a typical day is like, they might tell you that most days are different, fast-paced, challenging, and ultimately rewarding. In this job, the tasks of one day are rarely exactly the same as the day before.

Most practical nurses work in a nursing home, residential care facility, or a hospital. The typical length of a practical nursing shift is 8 hours, but some people choose to do 12-hour shifts, even several days in a row, so that they can have a solid 3 or 4 days off—which can be appealing for those taking care of children or other family members.

Let’s take a look at the general routine of a practical nurse at a hospital:

Beginning of the Shift

  • Bring your best: A practical nurse who arrives at work 15 minutes early has time to get settled, in order to be prepared for when the shift starts.
  • Charts and reports: The LPN reviews reports prepared by the nurse whose shift has just ended and will also review each patient’s chart, especially for records of vital signs.
  • Updates on medication: Healthcare facilities use varying forms and systems to keep track of medications for each patient, so it is important for a practical nurse to keep this information well-organized. An LPN will need to refer back to the data regularly, since medications must be given at regular, precise intervals.
  • Lab tests: An LPN may review test results or ensure that new lab tests have been ordered, so they are processed in a timely fashion. Sometimes lab technicians will call the LPN to get clarification or confirmation about any orders that are unclear.
  • Face time: After reviewing reports, the LPN will often greet and make caring connections with patients.

Middle of the Shift

  • Sampling, testing, charting: Since every patient is different, and symptoms and conditions can change quickly, a practical nurse may do necessary testing. This could mean collecting specimen samples for lab tests, monitoring patient catheters, or testing blood sugar levels. LPNs help the rest of the team to keep patients’ charts up to date.
  • Comfort and hygiene: The practical nurse provides physical assistance, including changing bandages, helping patients turn over, and helping with feeding, bathing, and changing clothes.
  • Patient and family interactions: Practical nurses make a huge contribution to the emotional well-being of the patient as well as their loved ones. Young patients might feel scared, elderly patients can be disoriented, and family members often count on LPNs and other staff members to reassure them.

End of Shift

A practical nurse often concludes a shift by finalizing reports on the status of each patient, with details about what took place during the past several hours. These procedures are not only critical to maintaining seamless, accurate care for each patient, but they also make it that much easier for the next nurse on duty.

Many practical nurses find it rewarding to care for patients as well as to work closely with other members of the healthcare team. If you’re interested in learning more, researching practical nursing programs near you is a good place to start. It could be the beginning of a whole new career path!


This post is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health, located in Manchester, NH. Visit us online to learn more, or reach out to schedule a campus tour!