How this Louisiana system is reintroducing LPNs to inpatient care

Baton Rouge, La.-based Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System is working to boost its licensed practical nurse pipeline and welcome more of these clinicians to the hospital setting. 

FMOL Health System has always employed LPNs but switched to staffing predominantly registered nurses in its hospitals within the last decade or two, mirroring industrywide trends. As RNs became the most common type of nurses working in hospital settings, LPNs shifted to outpatient clinics, nursing homes and other ambulatory care settings.

Now, more hospitals and health systems are seeking to reintroduce LPNs to hospital settings amid ongoing nursing shortages.  

"We have been back on that journey for a few years of reintegrating LPNs and trying to understand the best use case of all professionals to the top of their license," Kristin Wolkart, RN, executive vice president and chief nursing officer of FMOL Health System, told Becker's. "How do we help train and integrate them back into the acute care setting?"

Ms. Wolkart said many LPN programs in the New Orleans area had shrunk in recent years, so FMOL Health System is working with local nursing schools to help grow those programs. Efforts include increasing the number of staff members who are adjunct faculty to allow for more clinical rotations at the health system. These efforts will not only expand the pool of future LPNs but also increase their familiarity with the hospital setting. 

"LPNs had not been trained in a hospital in a while, so when they graduated they were not comfortable coming to work in a hospital," Ms. Wolkart said. "We have to reintegrate those students into clinical rotations in acute care settings so that they gain that comfort." 

FMOL Health System is also rolling out nurse tech programs for LPN students. 

Up until about a year ago, these programs — which allow students to work under the supervision of a nurse — were only open to junior- or senior-level RN students. 

"That's where we're successful in reintroducing LPNs back — as a part of their student rotations or employment while they're in school because they are embraced inside of our hospitals," Ms. Wolkart said. "We also continue to have them in our nursing homes, clinics and ambulatory care settings. We've not eliminated that — we're trying to just create more opportunities for more students to become LPNs to be on the journey with us in whatever care setting that they choose."

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