An overview of LVNs
The titles licensed practical nurse (LPN) and licensed vocational nurse (LVN) are interchangeable. These nurses have the same educational requirements, job description and take the same examination. However, California and Texas simply license the title of LVN to nurses whereas all other states and territories use the title LPN.
Licensed vocational nurses provide general health care and work under the supervision of a registered nurse or a physician. LVNs are licensed by their state: for more information on California and Texas licensure requirements, visit the state's board of nursing. Generally, licensure requires the completion of an approved nursing program and passing of the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). The exam is offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Passing the exam displays the competencies needed to perform the tasks of an entry-level, newly licensed nurse.
LVN nursing programs generally last about one year (BLS.gov, 2012) and can be offered at colleges or, sometimes, at high schools. A supervised clinical experience that provides real-world, hands-on experience for prospective nurses is required for state licensure, and many nursing schools provide a clinical practicum as part of their programs.
Both Texas and California have lists of approved programs. In the state of California, any credit completed from an online or distance-learning program will not count toward eligibility to take the NCLEX-PN.
What to expect as an LVN
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has provided a list of qualities and skills that may be beneficial for LVNs to possess based on the type of work they can be expected to perform. Additionally, as patients may be under stress, injured or require specific medication, the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) also notes that organizational and interpersonal skills can also be beneficial.
- Emotional stability
- Attention to detail
According to a 2008 California HealthCare Foundation report, up to 48 percent (CHCF.org, 2008) of a nurse's time can be spent filing paperwork, looking for medication, managing supplies or locating other personnel. As a result, the following technology is often employed by nurses to save time and provide a higher level of care, which in turn can result in improved patient health:
- Electronic Health Records (EHRs) - Some programs, such as those developed by Xerox's PARC division, can perform most information retrieval and updating automatically, saving nurses a significant portion of their time.
- Wireless patient monitoring systems - Monitoring systems can help nurses monitor patient activity, even remotely, for signs that the patient may have fallen, is ill or needs assistance. These systems may help lower the number of deaths from what is termed "failure to rescue."
Employment opportunities for LVNs
According to the BLS, as of May 2011, the median annual wage for LVNs was $41,150, nationally (BLS.gov, 2012), with most LVNs employed in general medical and surgical hospitals, offices of physicians and nursing care facilities. Additionally, from 2010 to 2020, the BLS projects the employment opportunity of LVNs may increase up to 22 percent (BLS.gov, 2012) as a result of an aging population and the need for overall health care.
Sources and further reading:
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc.
Equipped for Efficiency: Improving Nursing Care Through Technology, California HealthCare Foundation, December 2008
California Board of Vocational Nursing
Texas Board of Nursing