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Licensed Vocational Nursing: Career Info and Requirements

Learn about the work duties of a licensed vocational nurse. Read the educational and certification requirements in addition to salary data and employment outlook to make the right career choice.

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Career Definition for a Licensed Vocational Nurse

Licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) work with the direction of staff nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals to provide care to patients. LVNs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, long-term care facilities, nursing homes and clinics. Licensed vocational nurses' common duties include taking vital signs, including temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration, monitoring catheters and IVs, preparing and delivering medications and injections, applying and changing treatments and dressings, performing some routine lab tests, and keeping patients comfortable.

Required Education Varies by state; generally includes the completion of an accredited training program and licensing exam
Job Duties Include taking vital signs, monitoring catheters and IVs, preparing and delivering medications and injections
Median Salary (2015)* $43,170 (all licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 16% growth (all licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

While the requirements to become a licensed vocational nurse vary by state, generally, you'll need to have a high school diploma and complete an accredited training program at a community college or vocational school. A training program will take you about one year to complete and will include classroom and hands-on instruction and training in how to give basic care, perform CPR and first aid, monitor patients, and conduct basic medical procedures and tests. At the conclusion of your training program, you'll need to pass the NCLEX-PN licensing exam in order to become a licensed vocational nurse.

Required Skills

Working as a licensed vocational nurse can be physically demanding, and people seeking a career in nursing should be in good health and good physical shape. Working as an LVN requires careful attention to detail, good time management and multitasking skills, an ability to analyze information, and good communication skills.

Employment and Career Outlook

The career outlook for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is good, with employment in the field expected to grow 16% from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). While compensation will vary geographically and by place of employment, median annual earnings for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses were $43,170 in May 2015.

Alternative Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Occupational Therapy Assistant

For those who prefer the hands-on patient interaction that licensed vocational nursing provides, a career in occupational therapy might be another possibility to consider. Occupational therapy assistants work with disabled and ill patients, helping them relearn everyday tasks or make changes in how they accomplish them. Assistants also teach stretches and aid in exercise routines, as prescribed by a therapist. To gain employment in this field, an associate degree is necessary and state licensing is required. Professional certification is also available for career advancement. Based on data from the BLS, employment of occupational therapy assistants is projected to grow by 43% during the 2014-2024 decade. Therapy assistants received a median wage of $57,870 in 2015, as stated by the BLS.

Registered Nurse (RN)

Registered nurses have more responsibilities than licensed vocational nurses and contribute more to the overall care plan for patients. In addition to performing procedures and administering medications, RNs analyze test results and work with doctors to come up with treatment plans. A nursing diploma and various undergraduate nursing degrees are all ways to enter the nursing field. In addition, every state requires nurses to be licensed by completing an accredited program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). A 16% increase in job opportunities for registered nurses is projected by the BLS between 2014 and 2024, and the annual median salary in 2015 was estimated to be $67,490.

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