Licensed Practical Nurse/ Licensed Vocational Nurse
What is a Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse?
A Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse (LPN/ LVN) is a nurse who cares for patients under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or physician.The Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse (LPN/ LVN) is a nurse who has post high school non-degree training.Depending on the state, this degree is either called a Licensed Practical Nurse OR Licensed Vocational Nurse. Regardless of the name, this role is integral in the healthcare team.
Quick Facts about Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurses:
- 2015 Median Pay
- Number of Jobs in 2014
- Job Prospects from 2014-2024
- Much faster than average
- Projected Employment in 2024
- Projected Employment Change from 2014-2024
- Areas of Growth
- All areas of healthcare
Figure 1: Accessed online from Bureau of Labor Statistics July 2016
What does a Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse do?
The Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse (LPN/ LVN) provides direct, hands-on patient care based on the patient’s plan of care that is developed by the Registered Nurse in collaboration with the patient and family. As part of the healthcare team, the LVN/ LPN is included in planning the care for the patient. Depending on the Board of Nursing scope of practice in the specific state, facility-specific job description and the training of the individual, a Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse (LPN/ LVN) is a nurse who will do some or all of the following:
- Bathe and groom the patient;
- Turn and move the patient as indicated by the plan of care;
- Dress the patient;
- Provide other personal hygiene for the patient;
- Take vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate and temperature);
- Work with licensed professionals to help during medical treatments and procedures;
- Do treatments such as inserting and removing catheters, changing bandages and providing basic wound care;
- Document care in the patient’s medical record;
- Reinforce teaching done by the RN or physician;
- Give medications;
- Collect lab specimens;
- Observe the patient to report changes in the patient’s condition to nursing staff;
- Collaborate with other team members as part of the healthcare team.
Where do Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurses work?
The Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse (LPN/ LVN) can work in almost any area of health care. The only limitation is that, because the LPN/ LVN is a role that is dependent on others with more training
and expertise, there must be a Registered Nurse or physician directing the care and supervising the LPN/ LVN.In general, however, this role can be found throughout healthcare:
- Acute care hospitals;
- Skilled and long-term nursing facilities;
- Retirement communities;
- Assisted living facilities;
- Specialty hospitals;
- Home Health agencies;
- Insurance companies
- Physicians’ offices;
- Surgery centers;
- Clinics and outpatient services.
Most Licensed Practical/ Vocational nurses (about 80%) work full time but the Bureau of Labor Statistics note that in 2014 approximately 20% worked part time.
What qualities should a Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse have to be successful?
The work of the Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse is a very hands- on role with sick or aging patients. Therefore, it is critical that the LPN/ LVN be a compassionate and caring person willing to work hard, long hours. The LPN/ LVN must have excellent communication skills since you will be talking to patients, families, and other members of the healthcare team throughout your shift. The LPN/ LVN must be observant and detail oriented since this role is often the eyes and ears of the healthcare team. The Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse is trained to see small changes in patients before they become big problems. Depending on the scope of practice in the state and facility policy, you must be willing to learn new skills that were not trained in your education.
The tasks of the Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse requires long hours bending, walking, standing, and performing treatments. Therefore, the best LPN/ LVNs have the physical stamina to work hard for long hours. Finally, the Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse must be extremely patient. Since the LPN/ LVN works primarily with the elderly or sick, you must remember that getting a job done well does not always mean getting it done quickly!
How much can I expect to earn as a Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse?
Since the educational training and time to certification for a Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse is shorter than for a Registered nurse, the salary for an LPN/ LVN will not be as high as for the RN. However, the LPN/ LVN can expect to earn a good salary. As of May 2015, the median annual wage was $43,170 with a range from $22,540 to $59,510. Of course, wages vary widely by state, cost of living, and need. In May 2015, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the following as average wages for a Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse by state:
Figure 2: Accessed online from Bureau of Labor Statistics July 2016
What are the job prospects for a Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse?
The need for Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurses continues to be very high and will grow by 16% through 2024. Job prospects for the LPN/ LVN are excellent over the next 10 years as baby boomers age, begin to develop health issues, and begin to leave the work force. The increase in chronic conditions (obesity, heart disease, diabetes) will result in increased need for LPN/ LVNs. The increase in technology will continue to increase the demand for individuals who can use the new technology to provide new treatments. As health insurance availability increases, the healthcare community is likely to look to Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurses to help provide preventative healthcare services.
In May 2015, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed the following as employment of LPN/ LVNs by state:
Figure 3: Accessed online from Bureau of Labor Statistics July 2016
How can I become a Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse?
All Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurses must have at least a high school or general equivalency diploma and must complete an approved program. The LPN/ LVN training typically takes a full year of classroom and clinical training. These programs are usually found in vocational schools, technical schools or community colleges. In order to qualify to take the National Council Licensure Examination for practical nurses (NCLEX-PN), you must complete a program that is approved by your state.
After you complete the program that is approved by the state, you will be required to take and pass the NCLEX-PN exam. Passing this exam will allow you to use the title Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse! Following licensure, a hiring facility may also require additional training in the facility and competency testing that will allow the LPN/ LVN to perform additional technical skills. Depending on the state and facility, the Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurse may also be required to earn continuing education hours each year to maintain current competency.