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LVN Educational Requirements and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a licensed vocational nurse (LVN). Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

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LVNs provide basic patient care under the supervision of a doctor or a registered nurse. These professionals require formal training and licensure. The job growth outlook for LVNs is much faster than average for the 2014-2024 decade.

Essential Information

Licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) - also known as licensed practical nurses (LPNs) - work under the supervision of physicians and registered nurses (RNs) and spend much of their time directly caring for patients. Such nurses usually complete a 1-year training program leading to a certificate or a diploma. Licensing is required in all states.

Required Education Certificate or diploma in vocational nursing; associate's degrees also available
Licensing Mandatory; individuals must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for practical nurses
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for licensed vocational and licensed practical nurses*
Median Salary (2015) $43,170 for licensed vocational and licensed practical nurses*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

LVN Educational Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, LVNs and LPNs must graduate from a state-approved program in vocational nursing (www.bls.gov). Most programs can be found at community colleges, hospitals and vocational schools, and they usually lead to a certificate or diploma. Vocational nursing programs typically have both classroom and clinical components. Courses typically include anatomy, physiology, pediatrics, obstetrics, medical-surgical nursing, first aid, nutrition and pharmacology.

Licensure Requirements

After completing a state-approved training program, graduates must take an examination to become licensed in the state in which they work, usually the National Council Licensure Examination for practical nurses. Continuing education credits could be required to maintain licensure.

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LVN Career Information

LVNs are generally responsible for providing patients with basic bedside care. Common job duties include giving injections and enemas, dressing wounds, massaging patients, treating bedsores and monitoring catheters. They also help patients with personal hygiene and day-to-day tasks, such as bathing, getting dressed, moving in bed, standing, walking and eating.

In addition, LVNs are usually responsible for monitoring a patient's vital signs, such as heart rate, temperature, blood pressure and respiration. They might need to record and track a patient's height and weight, as well as food and fluid intake and output. Since LVNs spend significant time administering regular care, it is necessary that they inform physicians and senior nursing staff of any changes to a patient's condition or habits as soon as they occur.

LVNs also interact with the families of patients. They could be responsible for educating family members on how to care for sick, injured or disabled relatives. They might also have some laboratory and clerical duties, such as collecting samples, performing laboratory tests, cleaning equipment and ordering supplies, as well as making appointments, updating patient charts and using a patient's health history to complete insurance forms, referrals and authorizations. Experienced LVNs might be responsible for supervising nursing aide staff and dispersing patient medication.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Faster-than-average employment growth of 16% was predicted for licensed vocational and licensed practical nurses, from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These nurses earned an annual median wage of $43,170 in 2015, the BLS noted.

LVNs must complete training that includes either a certificate program or an associate's degree. They must then obtain a license by passing an exam. The median annual salary for LVNs was about $43,000 as of 2015.

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