The licensed vocational nurse (LVN) also is known as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in most states and as a registered practical nurse (RPN) in Canada. When a graduate nurse enters the health care field as a licensed practical or vocational nurse, that nurse will have distinct advantages to advancing a nursing career. This license is for those students who want to enter the nursing field as quickly as possible, yet leave room for further education and advancement later.

Prerequisites for Becoming an LVN

The student who attempts to enter an LVN course will need a high school diploma or GED. Once enrolled, students who enter an LVN course can expect to earn their practical nurse training within one to two years. The LVN is recognized in California and Texas, but other states also recognize the LVN as similar to the LPN for employment purposes.

How to become an LVN

In addition to a high school diploma or GED, the nursing student who wants to become an LVN will need to graduate from an accredited LPN program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN. The LVN coursework covers biology, chemistry, anatomy, psychology, emergency medical technology, first aid, physical education, foods and nutrition, child growth and development, so it may seem that the nurse could obtain a full education online. The drawback to this assumption is that the LPN is expected to learn clinical practice under supervision. This requires classes in a local hospital, and some LPN programs will help students obtain this education through local health care institutions. Before you sign up for an LVN program, make sure that it is approved by your state’s Board of Nursing. Otherwise, you may not qualify to sit for the NCLEX-PN exam.

In California, the hopeful LVN also must fill out the “Application for Vocational Nurse Licensure” and complete the “Record of Conviction.” Applicants also must submit fingerprints for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and take either the National League for Nursing Test Pool Practical Nursing Examination (NLN) or the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical (Vocational) Nursing (NCLEX). Graduates are required to choose a method of examination among those available only in California. There are four choices available, and each choice demands further requirements. However, these requirements are minor, if the student has made it through the course structure and is ready to sit for exams.

Careers Available After Becoming an LVN

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, LPNs and LVNs held 749,000 jobs in 2006. This number is predicted to grow to 854,000 by 2016, indicating a 14 percent increase in employment over a 10-year span. Higher salaries can be earned by the medical-surgical LVN or by the LVN who goes on to earn an RN license.

Depending upon work environment and work experience, licensed vocational nurses can earn salaries of $31,208 to $45,617 annually. The LVN can work directly with patients under the supervision of an RN and/or a physician. LVNs are responsible for a wide range of duties including injections, vital signs, basic diagnostic tests, wound dressing and administering medication. Some LVNs can specialize in a specific unit or department, depending upon the health care employer environment. A specialization can enable the LVN to be fit for duties such as patient and family education and office careers. Jobs for LVNs are available in hospitals, nursing care facilities, doctor’s offices, public health offices and other health care agencies.

LVNs often take the leap into registered nursing after earning an associate’s degree. This degree, along with other appropriately accredited programs such as a hospital diploma or a BSN, qualifies a nurse to take the NCLEX exam in any given state. If you want to earn that BSN, some colleges offer special programs that will allow credits for work experience and prior courses. These LPN/LVN-to-BSN programs may take up to three years to complete, depending upon whether the nurse can attend online or on campus courses on a full- or part-time basis.