Becoming a Licensed Vocational Nurse

What is an LVN?

There are over 700,000 Licensed Vocational Nurses working in the U.S. according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Becoming a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), also known as a licensed practical nurse or LPN, is one of the quickest career paths into the rewarding field of medicine.

LVNs work directly under the direction of registered nurses and doctors in a variety of health care environments which may include hospitals, private homes, extended care facilities, or physicians’ offices.

Job Description and Duties of an LVN Nurse

LVN duties involve basic nursing care. On the career ladder, LVNs would have more responsibilities than a certified nursing assistant (CNA) but not as many as a registered nurse (RN).

Depending on the work environment, LVN jobs may involve any of the following duties:

  • Prepare patients for examinations or procedures
  • Chart medical history and reason for current visit or update charts as necessary
  • Assist clinical staff with examination procedures
  • Take record and vital signs
  • Administer medications under physician’s orders, with the exception of I.V. medications
  • Complete lab slips as necessary
  • Phlebotomy duties
  • Counsel and educate patients concerning their condition, treatment, maintenance and/or prevention. This includes HIV/Antibody Test Counseling in accordance with State and Federal requirements.
  • Collect, clean, and sterilize medical equipment and instruments
  • Patient screening and triage
  • Order, check in and stock exam rooms with medical supplies
  • Participate in program development, education and improvement, such as family planning and immunization education
  • Participate in quality improvement and prepare reports to fulfill State and Federal requirements

LVN Salary

Licensed vocational nursing is a rewarding career in every way, including the financial aspect. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, LVNs earn an average salary of just under $20 per hour. The lowest percentage earn approximately $13.90 per hour while professionals in the upper 10% can enjoy earnings of up to $28 per hour.

When you look at these figures annually, the average LVN salary is just under $41,000 but the entire range can be anywhere from $28,900 to $59,000 per year.

Geographical location plays an important part in LPN salaries and the best paying states to live and work in are New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Mexico and California. Each of these states pay over $50,000 annually to their LVNs.

Licensed Vocational Nurse Education Requirements 

Most educational LVN programs require approximately one year of training which can be obtained at a community or junior college. The LVN classes consist of studies in anatomy and physiology, medical-surgical nursing, health and nutrition, drug administration, obstetrics and gynecology.

Students must also participate in clinicals, which is the experiential or “hands-on” portion. Most clinicals take place in hospitals. 

LVN Certification 

Following the successful completion of LVN school,  licensing through a state exam known as the NCLEX-PN is required. The exam is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

Exam categories cover topics such as the promotion of a safe and effective care environment, health and maintenance, psychosocial and physiological integrity. The National Council administers the exam by computer and provides online tutorials prior to the exam.

LVN Degree Paths

It’s always smart to consider the career ladder or path you can take from where you are. LVN jobs can lead to an Registered Nurse (RN) or Bachelor in Nursing (BSN) degree.

  • LVN to RN – The most common educational path to an RN degree is a two year program that cumulates with earning an Associate of Science in Nursing (AND). Other options include a hospital diploma program requiring a three-year course of study. 
  • LVN to BSN – LVNs seeking a BSN degree can generally complete the required training in two and a half years. In addition, students are often offered the opportunity to test out of a portion of the nursing courses.

A licensed vocational nursing position is an excellent way to quickly enter the medical field. From an LVN position, there is a promising career path that lies ahead.