LPNs and LVNs are generally used to interchangeably describe the same occupation. LPNs/LVNs both have the same educational and licensing requirements and typically perform the same duties. The primary difference between LPNs and LVNs lies in which particular state a nurse practices in. For example, those practicing in Texas and California are referred to as LVNs. Conversely, all other states use the term LPN.

Becoming an LPN/LVN

Those considering a position as an LPN/LVN should have experience and interest in caring for a wide variety of patients. Additionally, they should be responsible, accountable, compassionate, and caring individuals. Lastly, they should have adequate time management skills and should be flexible

What Are the Education Requirements for an LPN/LVN?

Before beginning the process, aspiring LPN/LVN students must first earn a high school diploma or GED certificate. The next step involved in becoming an LPN/LVN requires that individuals must obtain a diploma via a community college or an accredited online course. LPNs, in some states, aren't required to have any kind of diploma but are required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) which provides them a certification allowing them to work as an LPN in the United States. Courses that practical nurses must successfully complete in order to work within the United States are generally one year in length. However, certain positions may also require additional field experience prior to being hired.

Are Any Certification or Credentials Needed?

LPNs/LVNs must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination. Once they have passed, they can obtain a certification allowing them to be placed on their state’s registry and work as an LPN in the United States.

Once an LPN/LVN starts climbing through the ranks and professional ladder, they may wish to consider an LPN to RN program or LPN to BSN program.

Where Do LPN/LVNs Work?

There exists a wide variety of settings in which LPNs and LVNs can be found working in. Examples include but are not limited to the following:

  • Physicians' offices
  • Nursing homes
  • Hospitals (both private and public)
  • Military organizations
  • Correctional facilities
  • Schools and Universities
  • In-home healthcare
  • Residential care facilities

LPNs who choose to work as home health nurses or in nursing homes often are able to perform more duties autonomously without the constant supervision that LPNs working within hospital settings will have.

What Does an LPN/LVN Do?

LPNs/LVNs carry out tasks such as taking patients' vital signs, administering medication, and performing other treatments under the supervision of medical professionals like RNs and doctors. Additionally, they may provide meals and clean/manage medical instruments and equipment. Other everyday tasks an LPN/LVN might carry out include tracking the medical history of patients, changing bandages and wound care, helping patients bathe and dress, discussing medical care and concerns with patients, and in some cases assuming leadership roles.

See the difference between an LPN and an RN.

 What Are the Roles & Duties of an LPN/LVN?

  • Take vital signs
  • Organize and compile patient health history and information
  • Feed and provide basic care for infants and geriatric patients
  • Provide personal hygiene assistance to patients
  • Administer medication – monitoring frequency and measuring amounts
  • Supervise nursing aides and assistants
  • Take blood pressure and conduct other basic care treatments
  • Set up, clean, and use catheters, oxygen suppliers, and other equipment

Who Do LPN/LVNs Report To?

An LPN/LVN is not an independent practitioner; they practice under the direction of a physician or Registered Nurse (RN). Each state has a designated Licensed Practical/Vocational Nursing Board that determines the scope of the Practical/Vocational Nursing Practice Act. While the LPN/LVN practices under their own license, they are still, by law, practicing under the direction of the RN, and therefore the Registered Nurse is accountable for the care delivered by the LPN/LVN regardless of whether or not the RN is in a formal supervisory position.

Each state's Board of Nursing, through the Nurse Practice Act, allows for RNs to delegate tasks and to oversee assistive staff such as LPN/LVNs. RNs are also authorized to assess the competency of staff to ensure the tasks that are delegated will be performed in a manner that is safe for the patient. If an RN determines or suspects a subordinate is incompetent in an assigned task, it is the obligation and expectation that the RN will intervene and assume the responsibility of the task until other care arrangements can be made.

The RN is also responsible to listen to and provide assistance to problem-solve concerns brought forward by the LPN/LVN. For example, if an LPN/LVN brings forward a question about a physician's order, the RN must properly problem-solve and clarify the order with the LPN/LVN or risk being held liable if a medical error occurs.

RELATED: Difference in Workplace Roles of LPN’s and RN’s of Varying Education Levels

LPN/LVN Salary & Employment

Earnings for a Licensed Practical Nurse or Licensed Vocational Nurse can widely vary from state to state and according to experience, service, and further education/training. They are also employed across a variety of industries and sectors – thus influencing the mean salaries.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics practical nurses have a possible job outlook of 9%, which is as fast as average compared to the rate of growth for other positions within the country, and within the field of nursing. The rate of pay for positions within the practical nursing field averages $48,070 per year or $23.11 per hour but fluctuates based on experience, training, and certification. Individuals concerned should be cognizant that national long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions.

Helpful LPN Organizations, Societies, and Agencies

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