Licensed Vocational Nurse LVN & LPN Education
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic medical care, such as checking a patient's blood pressure. Duties of LPNs and LVNs vary, depending on their work setting and the state in which they work. For example, they may reinforce teaching done by registered nurses regarding how to help care for newborn infants, attend to the needs of inpatients, or collect laboratory samples for testing. Nurses must often be on their feet for much of the day. They are vulnerable to back injuries, because they may have to lift patients who have trouble moving in bed, standing, or walking.
- Monitor patients' health—for example, by checking their blood pressure.
- Administer basic patient care, including changing bandages and inserting catheters.
- Provide for the basic comfort of patients, such as helping them bathe or dress.
- Discuss the care they are providing with patients and listen to their concerns.
- Report patients' status and concerns to registered nurses and doctors.
- Keep records on patients' health.
LPNs and LVNs may be limited to doing certain tasks, such as feeding patients who cannot care for themselves, depending on the state where they work. For example, in some states, LPNs with proper training can give medication or start intravenous (IV) drips, but in other states LPNs cannot perform these tasks. State regulations also govern the extent to which LPNs and LVNs must be directly supervised. For example, an LPN may provide certain forms of care only with instructions from a registered nurse.
What education is needed to become a licensed vocational nurse?
LPNs and LVNs must complete an accredited nurse training program. These programs award a certificate or diploma and typically take about 1 year to complete. They are commonly found in technical schools and community colleges, although some nursing programs may be available directly through hospitals. Practical nursing programs combine classroom learning in subjects such as nursing, anatomy, human physiology, biology, and pharmacology. Programs also include supervised clinical experience and hospital rotations.
After completing a state-approved educational program, prospective nurses can take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). In all states, they must pass the exam to get a license and work as an LPN or LVN. For more information on the NCLEX-PN examination and a list of state boards of nursing, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. LPNs and LVNs may choose to become certified in specialty areas such as gerontology and intravenous (IV) therapy.
What salary can a LPN or LVN make per year?
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses held about 724,500 jobs in 2017. The median annual wage for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses was $44,090 in May 2017. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,510, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60,420. Most licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) work full time, although about 1 in 5 worked part time in 2017. Many work nights, weekends, and holidays, because medical care takes place at all hours. They may be required to work shifts of longer than 8 hours. Employment of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) is projected to grow 12 percent over the next decade, faster than the average for all healthcare occupations.
A number of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, have become more prevalent in recent years. LPNs and LVNs will be needed to assist and care for patients with chronic conditions in nursing homes and other extended-care facilities. In addition, many procedures that once were done only in hospitals are now being performed outside of hospitals, creating demand in outpatient care centers.
With experience, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses may advance to supervisory positions. Some LPNs and LVNs advance to other healthcare occupations. For example, an LPN may complete a LPN to RN education program to become a registered nurse.