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What is a Licensed Vocational Nurse?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 05, 2024
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A licensed vocational nurse (LVN), who in many US states is called a licensed practical nurse (LPN), is a trained and educated nurse who can work in many different medical fields. It should be noted that LPN is the more common designation for this profession. Certain states like California and Texas more often refer to these nurses as LVNs. This doesn’t mean that an LPN cannot get work in these states.

The training to become a licensed vocational nurse can vary. It typically includes one to two years of study. Programs to assist with this are available at many technical schools and there are plenty of community colleges that also offer LVN or LPN programs. These colleges may offer a combination of preparation to become a licensed vocational nurse and an A.A. or A.S degree at the same time. Typically, those who study in trade or professional schools don’t get an associates degree, though this varies. Trade school programs may be shorter than programs offered at community colleges, especially if students want an associates degree and are considering training later to become a registered nurse.

After completing training, a person must take an examination to get licensure. This is called the NCLEX-PN. It is required in all states. Canada has similar requirements and with a few extra steps, most people can easily become licensed as a nurse in either the US or Canada, no matter in which country they were trained. People should contact the Board of Nursing in the state in which they live to ask about requirements they may need to fulfill for licensure if they have not been trained in that state or country.

There are many different types of care that a licensed vocational nurse is trained to perform. He or she can take basic assessments of vital signs, observe patients and report findings to registered nurses or doctors, give injections, and help patients with cleaning, feeding, and comfort needs. Work done may depend on the location in which the nurse works.

Some difference exists in whether a licensed vocational nurse is allowed to start intravenous drips or administer certain medications. These depend on what the state allows and will vary. Numerous other responsibilities depend on where the nurse works and can include anything from patient and family education to helping to fill out paperwork for the office or to file insurance forms. LVNs may be called the “janes of all trade” because their competence can be required in so many areas.

There is work available for these nurses in hospitals, convalescent homes and at doctor’s offices. Some nurses work in the home care field, and others prefer to work with a specific group of patients. There are some opportunities to specialize in certain areas.

The job prospects for licensed vocational nurse work remain excellent because of the increasing demand for skilled nurses. These nurses cannot perform all things required by RNs and do make less money on average. There are also hazards to the job, since nursing can regularly put people into contact with contagious illnesses, and contaminated blood and other body fluids.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon91888 — On Jun 24, 2010

The article clearly states they are one and the same.

By Abigail16 — On Aug 08, 2009

Are LVN and LPN the same?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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