Career Information for a Licensed Vocational Nurse

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a licensed vocational nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements, as well as details about advancement, licensure and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

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Becoming a licensed vocational nurse or licensed practical nurse may be a good introduction for you to the nursing profession. Completion of an approved program that should take about a year and lead to a certificate or diploma. Upon the completion of licensing requirements, you should be ready to practice.

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Essential Information

Licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) work in hospitals, long-term care facilities and in homes. Aspiring LVNs often complete diploma or certificate programs in vocational nursing; they must also earn state licensure. Additional voluntary credentialing in a specialization is available for LVNs and may enhance job prospects.

Required Education Certificate in vocational nursing
Additional Requirements State nursing license
Projected Job Growth* (2014-2024) 16% for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses
Median Salary* (2015) $43,170 annually for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information

Licensed vocational nurses are entry-level nurses who have acquired basic nursing care knowledge. They may work in physician's offices, home and hospice care facilities, hospitals and nursing homes. LVNs may also specialize in specific areas, such as long-term or home care, and in some cases may split their work amongst multiple facilities.

LVNs, sometimes referred to as licensed practical nurses or LPNs, can work full or part time, but often carry a typical 40-hour work week. Licensed vocational nurses should be caring and sympathetic to patient needs. Their jobs can be stressful, as they may have to deal with losing patients.

Education Requirements

Vocational nursing diploma and certificate programs prepare students to acquire licensure and work as LVNs. These programs are typically delivered through vocational or technical schools and community colleges. During their education, prospective LVNs learn in both classroom and clinical settings, where they work under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs). Programs generally last one year and conclude with the awarding of a diploma or professional certificate to the graduating student. Common coursework includes anatomy, physiology, basic patient care and nursing ethics.

Licensing Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurses must be licensed to practice. To become licensed, aspiring LVNs must be complete state licensure requirements. Requirements for states vary; however, the BLS notes that all states mandate candidates pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). Continuing education may be required to retain licensure.

Career Advancement

LVNs may advance their careers in a few common ways. Some choose to become registered nurses. This can be achieved through additional experience, training and education. Many colleges offer nursing 'bridge' education programs which can aid in this process. Licensed vocational nurses who have not completed an Associate of Science in Nursing degree program may do so, while those who have may opt to enter a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program to gain the education necessary to help them in their career transition.

Other LVNs may pursue credentialing in a vocational health care specialty. LVNs who choose to obtain a professional credential can complete continuing education in areas like geriatrics, long-term care or home health care. They can then take an examination on their knowledge and achieve certification. Certification can be obtained through organizations such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service.

Salary and Job Growth Information

The BLS reports that as of 2015, licensed vocational and licensed practical nurses held 697,250 jobs in the United States. These jobs were primarily held in nursing care facilities and general medical and surgical hospitals. LVNs and LPNs earned a median annual salary of $43,170 at that time. The BLS also noted that a 16% increase in jobs for these nurses is expected during the decade of 2014-2024; this growth is projected due to an increase in outpatient procedures and an aging U.S. population.

The occupation of LVN or LPN is projected to increase at a much faster rate than the average of all occupations. With your diploma or certificate from an approved program in hand, you must complete state licensing requirements and pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical Nurses in order to practice as an LVN or LPN. Various bridge education programs are available for LPNs or LVNs to become registered nurses.

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