The Role of Practical Nurses in the Healthcare Team

The Role of Practical Nurses in the Healthcare Team

Healthcare teams bring together professionals from multiple disciplines, each with specialized knowledge and expertise. This collaboration is the foundation of comprehensive care, addressing patients’ many physical, emotional and psychosocial needs. In a holistic approach, team members can work together to develop a fully integrated treatment plan. As frontline caregivers, practical nurses play a central role.

What Roles Make up a Healthcare Team? 

Healthcare teams are multidisciplinary, meaning that they include various medical and allied health professionals who work together to provide comprehensive medical care. Who’s on the team varies based on the setting, but members aren’t required to work in the same building. Teams may also include healthcare providers who work independently as consultants.

Key players include:


Physicians are medical doctors who diagnose and treat physical illnesses, prescribe medications, and perform medical procedures. Among them are general practitioners, surgeons, and specialists, from cardiologists to urologists.

In most settings, physicians are the team leaders and decision-makers. Who collaborates on individual cases is often the direct result of a physician’s order, such as when a medical doctor orders a nutrition consultation for a patient with diabetes or respiratory therapy for someone with pneumonia.

Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs and NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) work under the supervision of physicians to diagnose and treat common illnesses, prescribe medications, and provide patient education. PAs work as true assistants, managing lesser issues for the doctor they’re partnered with.

APRNs are often employed as clinical specialists in any of dozens of specialties from wound care to women’s health. NPs and APRNs with certification in primary care, are healthcare providers in their own right, managing their own caseload of patients with minor issues or who need routine or follow-up care.


Nurses manage complex nursing duties in acute and long-term care facilities. Their responsibilities include directing patient care, medication administration, and wound care. As professionals, they practice autonomously, but also collaboratively as members of the healthcare team.


Pharmacists are medication experts trained in safe and effective drug use. They review prescriptions, provide medication counseling, and help monitor patients’ medication regimens. In most areas, they may now administer injections, making it easier for patients to access routine vaccinations without a doctor’s appointment.

Allied Health Professionals

Allied health professionals are healthcare providers who are not physicians, nurses, or pharmacists. It’s a broad group representing diverse expertise in a wide range of specialties.

Examples include:

  • Physical Therapists (PT)
  • Occupational Therapists (OT)
  • Respiratory Therapists
  • Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs)
  • Psychologists and Psychiatrists
  • Dietitians and Nutritionists
  • Medical Social Workers (MSW)
  • Radiologists
  • Medical Laboratory Technicians (MLTs)
  • Case Managers (CMs)

What is the Role of Practical Nurses in the Healthcare Team? 

Practical nurses play an essential role on the healthcare team. Their specific responsibilities vary depending on the healthcare setting and scope of practice regulations in each state, but they perform invaluable functions, including:

Direct Patient Care

Practical nurses provide direct patient care under the supervision of registered nurses or physicians, assisting patients with essential activities necessary for daily function, such as bathing, grooming, dressing, and using the toilet.

Mobility Assistance 

LPNs assist patients with mobility, especially those who have difficulty walking or need a helping hand due to illness or injury. They help patients to get in and out of bed, using mobility aids, including walkers, wheelchairs, canes, and mechanical transfer devices, based on a physical therapist’s care plan.

For fully dependent patients, they provide frequent repositioning, ensuring proper body alignment and pressure relief. This helps prevent the complications of immobility, such as stiffness, discomfort, impaired circulation, and pressure ulcers.

Feeding and Nutrition

Good nutrition is the cornerstone of healing. LPNs assist patients with their meals, ensuring that they receive adequate nutrition and hydration. They may help feed patients who have difficulty eating independently or require special diets ordered by physicians or dietitians. LPNs monitor patients’ food intake and communicate any concerns about appetite, swallowing difficulties, or nutritional needs to the healthcare team.

Medication Administration

Medication administration is a significant part of a nurse’s job. LPNs prepare and administer oral, topical, injectable and many intravenous drugs. Their role is to ensure medication safety, monitor for adverse reactions and educate patients about their medication regimens.

Observation and Assessment

LPNs closely observe patients for any physical or behavioral changes that may signify a worsening condition or adverse reactions to treatments. They assess factors such as vital signs, skin color, breathing patterns, pain levels, mobility, mental status, and overall appearance.

Trained to recognize early signs of complications or deterioration in patients’ health, they promptly report significant changes to the RN or physician overseeing the patient’s care. Early detection and reporting are crucial for timely interventions and preventing adverse outcomes. Through their observations, LPNs can detect subtle changes and promptly communicate concerns to the healthcare team.

Clinical Procedures

Practical nurses perform a broad array of clinical procedures with a doctor’s order, such as:

Wound Care – LPNs assist in providing basic wound care, including wound cleaning, dressing changes, and application of topical medications.

Catheterization – LPNs may assist in urinary catheterization procedures, such as inserting and removing urinary catheters and monitoring for patency.

Specimen Collection – Practical nurses collect laboratory specimens, such as blood, urine, and stool samples, using proper collection techniques and handling protocols.

Oxygen Therapy – LPNs assist in the delivery of medical oxygen therapy to patients by maintaining oxygen equipment, ensuring proper flow rates, and assessing patients for signs of adequate oxygenation. They work closely with doctors and respiratory therapists to meet patients’ needs.

Emergency Care – Trained in basic life support, LPNs may provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other lifesaving care in emergencies.

Documentation – Accurate recordkeeping is essential for continuity of care. LPNs maintain accurate and timely records, recording the treatments they provide and any observations about patients’ conditions. Accurate documentation is essential for effective communication among members of the healthcare team.

Patient Education – LPNs support the entire healthcare team by providing patient education on health topics, including self-care, nutrition, medication safety and disease management, pulling together the recommendations made by each healthcare provider involved in the patient’s care.

RN Support – Practical nurses work side by side with registered nurses, assisting with duties that are beyond their scope of practice to perform independently. They can help with tasks such as starting IV lines, administering blood products, and supervising paraprofessional staff. This collaboration allows RNs to focus on more complex nursing responsibilities.

Patient Advocacy – Nurses are patient advocates, representing their needs, rights, and preferences before the healthcare team. They act as a liaison between patients and other healthcare professionals, ensuring that patients’ voices are heard, and their concerns are addressed.

How Do You Become a Practical Nurse? 

RNs are required to have a college degree, but you can become a practical nurse with a vocational school diploma. The curriculum covers the theory and practical skills every nurse needs.

Upon graduation, you’ll sit for the NCLEX-PN®, the nationally recognized licensure exam. Pass it and you’re ready to send out resumes. Vocational school programs support you every step of the way by incorporating exam material and covering test-taking strategies in class.

How Long Is an LPN Program? 

Vocational LPN programs take about a year to complete, including clinical rotations. All you need to apply is a high school diploma or general equivalency certificate. In twelve months, you’ll gain the knowledge and experience required to be an integral member of a successful healthcare team.

Final Thoughts

Practical nurses play a pivotal role on the healthcare team, serving as a bridge between patients and providers. As a collaborative force, they exemplify the power of teamwork, demonstrating that when professionals unite, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Want to Learn More?

The Practical Nursing (PN) Program provided by the Ohio Business College is 44 weeks or four quarters in length. The program covers a combination of theory, nursing skills lab, simulation lab, and clinical experiences. Once you graduate from the PN program, you will be fully qualified to write to the NCLEX-PN® to become licensed as an LPN in the state of Ohio.

Contact us today to learn more about our LPN program.