GLENS FALLS -- Glens Falls Hospital has approved a five-year time line for phasing out licensed practical nurse positions in favor of adding more registered nurses.
Hospital officials began discussing the plan with staff this summer. More recently, a five-year plan was approved.
Hospital spokeswoman Sandra DiNoto said some departments will phase out LPNs before the five-year mark, as nurses retire. As of August, the hospital's Glens Falls campus employed 100 LPNs.
Officials said the goal is to have more staff on the floor who can respond to and make decisions about patient care.
Registered nurses operate under a physician's supervision and are able to assess, triage and coordinate patient care.
In contrast, LPNs can administer medication and provide treatments, but only under the supervision of a registered nurse.
Across the country, hospitals are phasing out their LPNs, forcing those workers to become RNs or apply for nurse's aide positions to stay with their employers.
Glens Falls Hospital has been working to increase its RN staff through attrition - when an LPN leaves, an RN is hired. Now it hopes to make a more concerted effort to bring its staff in line with industry standards.
"We are one of the last hospitals in this region to go this route," DiNoto said.
LPNs are encouraged to go back to school and complete their registered nurse education by 2017. Those who opt not to pursue other training will be able to apply for other positions at the hospital. Their salaries will not be reduced if they transfer roles.
"We are being really sensitive to the fact that a lot of people have been in these roles for a long time and doing a lot of good," DiNoto said.
The hospital has partnered with Excelsior College and Sage College of Albany to streamline access to undergraduate degree programs for staff nurses. Tuition assistance will be offered.
The industry is also pushing more educational requirements for RNs. For example, the Institute of Medicine has recommended an 80 percent increase in the number of RNs with bachelor's degrees by 2020.
The hospital is also working toward that goal through the Excelsior partnership.