Becoming a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN) is often the first step in a nursing career. Many medical professionals prefer to start their career as an LVN or LPN and go on to earn a bachelor’s degree and become a registered nurse after they have gained experience.

Becoming a LVN or LPN requires training for about one year at a vocational, technical or community college. Once nurses have gained experience, they can choose to enroll in courses that will allow them to become registered nurses without duplicating courses or credits. Once they have earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing, RNs find that their career opportunities are greatly expanded.

There are many ways to become a registered nurse, but one of the most popular is to become an LVN or LPN first, gain experience, and then go back to school part-time and become an RN in an accelerated course. Unfortunately, regardless of experience, advancement options are limited without becoming an RN. Many colleges offer online courses so that LVNs and LPNs can earn their degree while they are working.

Most institutions require RN certification to get promotions and financial advancements. Once an LVN or LPN has earned their degree, they will go on to sit for an exam sponsored by the National Council of Licensure Examinations for Registered Nurses.

LVN/LPN to RN Job Description

LVNs and LPNs care for patients, record vital signs, give injections and dress wounds. They may work in a doctor’s office or in a larger institutional setting. They are often the first face a patient sees and are usually friendly and knowledgeable.

Nurses who wish to further their careers often become RNs. Once they have earned their degree and passed the exam, they can specialize in any number of ways including:

  • Emergency room care
  • Operating room assistance
  • Critical care, including intensive care
  • Hospice care
  • Psychiatric nursing
  • Transplant nursing
  • Cardiovascular specialties
  • Gastroenterology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

In addition to these specialties, those RNs who go on to earn a master’s degree can become:

  • Nurse Anesthetists
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists
  • Nurse Midwives
  • Nurse Practitioners

LVN/LPN to RN Salary

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for an LVN or LPN in May 2006 was $36,550 per year. In contrast, the median earnings for an RN during the same period was $57,280. Nurses with higher degrees and more experience will earn even higher salaries. Job growth in all areas of medical care is expected to grow faster than average through 2016.

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