How to Become an LPN in Alberta (With Duties and Skills)
Updated June 2, 2023
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) work directly with patients at facilities such as hospitals, doctor's offices, or long-term care homes and provide them with support throughout the course of their treatment. They use their knowledge of medical equipment and effective nursing principles to provide excellent patient care as part of a larger health care team. Learning more about what LPNs do and how to prepare for the role can help you determine whether this career is right for you.
In this article, we explain what an LPN is, discuss how to become an LPN in Alberta, list the primary duties of this role, and discuss some skills you can develop for success.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
What is an LPN?
An LPN provides comprehensive support to patients, attending to both their physical and emotional well-being throughout their treatment. They monitor patients' vital signs, administer medications, observe their response to treatment, document significant changes, and communicate this information to other health care team members. LPNs collaborate with doctors and registered nurses to ensure patients receive the necessary support for their improvement.
Acting as patient advocates, nurses also educate communities and individuals about disease prevention, self-care practices, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Their work settings include hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, public health agencies, and schools. They sometimes also provide home-based care to patients, assisting them directly in their own residences.
How to become an LPN in Alberta
Here are some steps for you to follow when exploring how to pursue a career as an LPN in Alberta:
1. Complete high school
Take high school courses to gain foundational knowledge you can use throughout your career. The content you study in courses such as biology, anatomy, chemistry, mathematics, psychology, and English can prepare you for college. These subjects offer essential knowledge in medical science, critical thinking, and numeracy skills. They also improve your understanding of human behaviour and effective communication, which are both crucial for success as a nurse. Research specific colleges while you're still in high school to ensure the courses you choose align with the admission requirements of your preferred programs.
2. Pursue a diploma program
To become an LPN, ensure you graduate from an approved practical nursing education college program. Alternatively, consider an equivalent alternative educational pathway that has approval from the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta (CLPNA). These practical nursing programs provide a comprehensive foundation that you use throughout your career. They typically comprise theoretical classroom instruction, practical laboratory training, and valuable clinical experiences in diverse health care settings.
By integrating classroom learning with practical application, you develop relevant skills and learn to apply your knowledge in real-world scenarios. Clinical training experiences are excellent opportunities to work with experienced health care team members, observe patient care processes, and take part in delivering safe, competent, and compassionate care. A practical college nursing program equips you with the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to meet and overcome the challenges and demands of the health care industry.
3. Register with the CLPNA
Make sure that you register with the CLPNA before you begin practising as an LPN. This organization ensures that all nurses can provide safe and competent support to the public. The title also qualifies you to teach students or supervise registered members after gaining enough experience.
If you currently work as an LPN in another province or territory and want to move to Alberta, you may be eligible to register directly with the CLPNA. This depends on several factors, including whether you have a good reputation within your local regulatory organization. Another factor is whether you have similar skills and responsibilities in your current jurisdiction.
4. Gain experience
The experience you gain through clinical placements during your college education can prepare you for an entry-level role as an LPN. Consider gaining relevant experience by working part-time or over the summer in the medical industry while you're still completing your education. For example, work as a medical scribe or secretary to gain skills and knowledge of health care terminology, which you then highlight on your resume and cover letter when applying for your first LPN role.
After graduating, consider pursuing a preceptorship. This allows you to work closely with an experienced LPN or registered nurse to learn more about the job and gain valuable guidance through mentorship. Seek professional opportunities at hospitals, clinics, doctor's offices, community health centres, or long-term care facilities.
5. Consider a specialization
By acquiring specialized knowledge and skills through focused training and certification, you can provide specialized support within specific health care settings, catering to the unique needs of patients who require these services. To practise in your preferred area of specialization, legislation requires that you complete an approved program or earn an advanced LPN certification. The CPLNA determines whether you're qualified and able to perform the tasks within a specialized field and provides official authorization. Some areas of specialization to consider include advanced orthopedics, podiatry, dialysis, immunization, and perioperative nursing.
LPN primary duties and responsibilities
Here are some typical LPN duties and responsibilities:
assisting physicians or registered nurses with patient assessments and documenting findings
monitoring patient vital signs, recording changes, and reporting abnormalities to physicians
advocating for public health by educating people about disease prevention and healthy lifestyles
showing compassion and offering emotional support to patients and their families
performing emergency procedures, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation
ensuring patient safety by cleaning equipment and maintaining a sterile environment
assisting patients with basic hygiene practices, such as bathing, dressing, and eating
collecting and preparing samples for laboratory analysis, such as urine and blood samples
administering prescribed medications and injections
conducting simple medical tests, such as taking a patient's blood pressure
monitoring and documenting patient responses to treatments, medications, and other interventions
cleaning, dressing, and redressing wounds to prevent infection
counselling patients about lifestyle modifications for improved health
collaborating with members of the health care team to ensure everyone follows a cohesive plan
Skills for LPNs
Here are some skills you can develop to excel in your career as an LPN:
Checking vital signs
The ability to check a patient's vital signs allows you to gather essential information about their overall health status. Regularly monitoring vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and temperature allows you to quickly identify risks or changes in a patient's condition. You can then intervene and provide suitable care, ensuring the patient's safety and well-being. Accurate assessment of vital signs also helps you track the effectiveness of treatments, make informed decisions regarding the efficacy of the patient's current care plan, and provide feedback to physicians.
Knowledge of technical equipment
You use a range of technical equipment and computer software in your role as an LPN. For example, you may use blood pressure monitors, administer IV pumps, and manage electronic health record systems. You can apply the technical knowledge you develop during your education and throughout your career to accurately assess patients, monitor vital signs, administer medications, and maintain accurate medical records. Your proficiency in these technical aspects ensures you deliver high-quality health care to patients.
As an LPN, you benefit from having excellent critical thinking skills to make informed decisions. This skill allows you to assess complex patient situations, observe subtle changes, identify potential issues, and determine suitable interventions. By analyzing data, evaluating options, and making informed decisions, you can provide efficient and effective care. You also use critical thinking skills to prioritize tasks and respond promptly to changes in a patient's condition.
As an LPN, having compassion allows you to foster more meaningful connections with patients. It also helps you build trust, improves the quality of care, and may enhance your job satisfaction, as you can feel you're making a difference in the lives of your patients. By demonstrating empathy and compassion, you create a more comfortable and welcoming environment for patients and their families and provide more personalized care.
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