Based on schooling and training, the field of nursing is divided into three distinct types of nurse. While the most prevalent title is registered nurse (RN), other types of nurses, including Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN) exist.
The titles “licensed practical nurse” (LPN) and “licensed vocational nurse” (LVN) are two names for the same occupation. LPN/LVNs are concerned with basic patient care and are almost always under the supervision of doctors or RNs. The range of responsibilities of LPN/LVNs is far less than that of RNs and is usually restricted to routine bedside duties such as delivering medications, assisting patients with simple activities such as eating, bathing and using bedpans, and taking and recording patients’ vital signs.
The LPN/LVN degree can be earned in a practical nursing program. There are currently about 1,200 accredited LVN/LPN programs in practical nursing in the U.S., including community colleges, vocational colleges and online colleges.
In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, once the LVN/LPN student has graduated from an approved practical nursing program, he or she must then pass the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination), a national examination, to obtain a nursing license. Most states also have their own additional requirements beyond these national requirements. In addition to passing the NCLEX, for example, LVN/LPNs must be licensed by the state in which they will practice.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment opportunities for nurses of all varieties, including LVN/LPNs, is expected to grow “much faster than average for all occupations” during the upcoming decade.
According the U.S. Department of Labor, approximately 726,000 individuals were employed as LVN/LPNs in 2004, and the average annual salary was $33,970. Once one has attained a nursing degree as an LPN or LVN, many choose a specific area of interest in which to specialize, such as:
These college programs allow the LVN/LPN to obtain the more advanced degree of Registered Nurse.
LVN/LPNs who choose this occupation care for institutionalized elderly patients.