Ask a Nurse: How Do I Get Into a Management Position as an LPN?
In our Ask a Nurse series, experienced nurses provide an insider look at the nursing profession by answering your questions about nursing careers, degrees, and resources.
Question: How do I get into a management position as an LPN?
Thinking about advancing your career in a management role? Well, I think that's an incredible goal to pursue. While we have heard about the looming nursing shortage, not much is said about the increased need for qualified nurse managers to lead those new nurses.
Licensed practical nurse (LPNs) play an important role in caring for patients in many clinical settings, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, and nursing homes. They perform many of the same functions that a registered nurse (RN) does with a few crucial exceptions:
- LPNs cannot assess patients.
- LPNs must work under the supervision of an RN.
However, the rules are not quite as clear-cut with nonclinical job functions. This is not new information, but it is important to understand why the answer to your question isn't a simple one.
Basically, It Varies by State
It all boils down to each state's nurse practice act and what restrictions they put on an LPN license. Unfortunately, there are some states, such as North Carolina, that do not allow an LPN to function in a managerial or charge nurse role. Other states, such as California and Iowa, do allow it, but have specific guidelines in place that dictate when and how an LPN can act as a charge nurse.
So, What Does This All Mean?
Well, the first thing you will want to do is check your state nurse practice act.
If you are in a state that allows you to work as a charge nurse, then great! Here's what you will want to do first:
- Work, get experience, find a mentor, and consider leadership or management training courses.
Nurse managers are responsible for so much more than just a patient's clinical care or group of patients. They must be skilled in finance, resource management, planning, and human resources. Having these skills or experiences not only helps you get the job, but prepares you to do it successfully.
Then, when you are ready to look for a leadership role:
- Check in with your current organization to see if they hire LPNs into management.
- Check out job openings at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or other skilled nursing facilities.
If your state places restrictions on whether an LPN can work as a supervisor or charge nurse — some states, for example, require an LPN to manage under the direction of an RN — I offer the same advice!
- Take management courses, find a mentor (ideally an LPN nurse manager, if possible), and do whatever you can to make yourself a marketable candidate.
- You might find an organization that is willing and able to hire LPNs for management positions.
Finally, if your state does not allow LPNs to function in this role, you still have some options:
- Consider going back to school to earn your RN.
Online bridge programs can be completed in as short as 1-2 years, with many that can be done online while you are working. Of course, there are many other options as well. You can earn a bachelor's degree, a master of science in nursing, and even a doctorate that specializes in nursing leadership.
Nicole Galan, RN, MSN is an RN who started on a general medical/surgical care unit and then moved to infertility care, where she worked for almost 10 years. Galan has also worked for over 13 years as a freelance writer specializing in consumer health sites and educational materials for nursing students. She currently works as a full-time freelancer and recently earned her master's degree in nursing education from Capella University.
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