Nearly everyone remembers at least one overnight stay in a hospital. A smiling nurse arrived in the morning, drew back the curtains to let the sunshine in, checked your blood pressure and IV bag if you had one, fluffed your pillows, took your temperature, and asked how you were doing. She or he brought you your breakfast, changed your bed pan or assisted you to the bathroom if you were able to walk, and made some notes on a clipboard. This was the practical nurse making her rounds.
A Variety of Tasks
It’s the practical nurse that dispenses your medication and monitors your reactions. She may collect blood and fluid samples for the lab. She keeps records of your progress and enters the reports into the computer. She consults with your family members, explaining how they can be helpful in continuing your patient care. If you are wounded, she is the one that changes your bandages and dressing.
Practical nurses work in a variety of settings. They may be responsible for giving immunizations at a clinic, scheduling appointments, billing patients, contacting the insurance companies for consultation, and even for writing prescriptions under the instruction of the physician.
In extended care, they may help with the rehabilitation process by monitoring the progress of the patients, helping the patients in and out of wheel chairs, assisting with their daily bathing and dressing, and providing emotional support for both the patient and family members. They may administer injections and pull and prepare the patients’ charts. They are responsible for keeping patient rooms neat and orderly and for stocking patient rooms with supplies.
Beyond the Clinic
There is a large demand for practical nurses in elderly care. They can be found both at nursing homes and in private home settings. If you have elderly parents who live in the home and require patient care, it’s the practical nurse that comes to visit. The practical nurse checks in on the patient, discusses with the family proper diet and exercise, monitors the patient’s vitals, rotates bed-ridden patients, and checks for bed sores.
Practical nurses must be knowledgeable in a wide range of skills. They must know and understand medical terminology and be able to observe the effects of medications on the patients. They must be able to communicate negative effects clearly, such as a loss of appetite, possible allergic reactions, if the dosage seems to be too strong, or if the medication is causing mental confusion.
Practical nurses must be efficient, create and maintain work schedules, recognize priority care, and file and retrieve information. Their relationship with both the patient and the family members is a personable one, answering questions that help clarify what the patient needs while maintaining patient confidentiality.
They also must have a great deal of physical stamina. Practical nurses are on their feet most of the day while attending to patient care. They lift, support, and assist patients that do not have free range of movement, carry materials and heavy equipment, and perform a variety of other tasks that require physical exertion.
Their lives are centered primarily around care giving, not only to the patient but as a supportive and sympathetic individual to families in crisis. The family may turn to the practical nurse for assurance, hope, and advice. The practical nurse must be there for them, helping them learn the techniques of a rehabilitation process or soothe the grief of inevitable loss. The job of a practical nurse is as both a mental and physical caregiver.