What is a Vocational Nurse?
A licensed vocational nurse or LVN is a nurse that administers basic medical care to patients under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or physician. An LVN job description is essentially the same as a licensed practical nurse (LPN), except that LVNs work specifically in the states of California and Texas. These two states use the term vocational nurse, while the rest of the country uses the term practical nurse.
What are LVN Duties and Responsibilities?
LVNs typically work full-time and are likely to work irregular hours, such as nights and weekends, to care for patients. These nurses can work in a wide range of medical settings, including nursing care facilities, hospitals, doctors' offices, and home healthcare services. An LVN's primary responsibility is to help care for patients, which may entail job duties such as:
- Checking vital signs, like heart rate or blood pressure
- Updating medical histories
- Dressing wounds
- Inserting catheters
- Helping patients eat, dress, bathe, etc.
- Listening to patients and their families
- Addressing questions/concerns from patients
- Informing doctors and RNs of any issues
- Collecting lab samples
How Much Do LVNs Make?
In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that LPNs and LVNs made an average annual salary of $47,050. Nursing care facilities had the highest rate of employment for LPNs and LVNs that year and provided an annual average salary of $48,330. LPNs and LVNs who worked at junior colleges made the highest average income at $62,050 in 2018.
What is the Job Outlook?
The BLS also reported that the job outlook for LPNs and LVNs is 11% from 2018 to 2028. This job outlook is much faster than the national average and may be attributed to the aging population and growing need for healthcare services, especially residential care facilities.
How Do You Become an LVN?
LVNs must complete a certificate or diploma program in vocational nursing, which are available in the states of California and Texas. These programs may be completed in as little as 12 months and may offer flexible schedules, such as evening and/or weekend classes. Coursework typically includes hands-on learning and practice with nursing techniques and may cover topics in areas like:
- Nursing interventions
- Preventive nursing care
- Data collection
- Client-centered care
After completing a vocational nursing program, graduates are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). This exam is required to earn state licensure. LVNs may be required to obtain additional certification, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or specialty certification, such as IV (intravenous) therapy.
A career as an LVN can also be a great stepping stone to other career options. Some of these professionals may choose to attend registered nursing (RN) school to complete a diploma, associate's, or bachelor's degree program that helps prepare them for the NCLEX-RN. Once they are an RN, students can pursue specialty certifications and/or training programs to become an operating room nurse, newborn nursery nurse, and other specialties.
Beyond an RN, students can pursue a master's in nursing and become a nurse practitioner. These professionals can serve as primary healthcare providers and can work independently from physicians.