Are you finishing up high school and contemplating a career in nursing after graduation? Or perhaps you’re already several years into a career path and you’re looking to pivot into the field of nursing care.
If so, then you’ve probably come across information that spells out the different options and opportunities in nursing, some of it helpful and some of it not.
Don’t be discouraged if you find yourself overwhelmed and confused by all of the medical field jargon and acronyms out there. We’re here to help clear the path forward so you can make a decision about your future in nursing with clarity and confidence.
What’s the difference between LPN vs LVN?
Let’s start by clearing up one major point of confusion right now: there is basically no difference between LPN and LVN, except for wording.
Just so you’re up to speed on what the terms actually stand for:
LVN: Licensed Vocational Nurse
LPN: Licensed Practical Nurse
Licensed Vocational Nurse is the term used in California and Texas, and licensed practical nurse is the term used everywhere else in the US. While there may be some minor variations between the job responsibilities held by LVNs and LPNs from state to state, the jobs are considered virtually the same and the terms can be used interchangeably.
So what exactly do LVNs and LPNs do? Let’s look at what this rewarding career path typically involves.
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What do LVNs and LPNs do?
LVNs and LPNs belong to an overall healthcare team, which includes RNs (registered nurses) and physicians, that works together to provide medical care to patients in both emergency situations and in a preventive healthcare setting. These include hospitals, health clinics, nursing homes, and other care facilities. LVNs and LPNs typically report to either registered nurses or doctors or both.
While nursing encompasses a wide range of responsibilities (no two days are the same!), some of the core job duties and basic nursing that LVNs and LPNs perform include:
- Check and track patient vital signs
- Provide emergency care, such as CPR
- Tend to minor wounds
- Collect samples from patients (e.g., blood, stool, urine)
- Assist patients with day-to-day tasks such as eating, bathing, and dressing
- Administer medications
- Insert and monitor IVs, catheters, and gastronomy tubes
- Conduct and record physical evaluations
- Liaise with other staff to share information between shift changes
What education and training do I need to become an LPN or LVN?
If this sounds like an exciting and worthwhile career path that you’d like to pursue, the next step is to determine what kind of training and education requirements are needed to become an LPN or LVN.
The good news is that you don’t need an Associate Degree or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to work as an LPN or LVN.
You do, however, have to do two other things before you can start your career:
- Complete a formal training program
- Pass a state-administered exam known as The National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN)
Let’s talk about the training programs first.
To become an LPN or LVN, you need to complete an accredited LPN program, which can take nine months to two years to complete (most people finish their LPN programs in about one year). These programs are available through community colleges and technical schools and in some cases are offered through hospitals.
Seeking out and choosing the right LPN program is where a lot of people get stuck and discouraged. Don’t let this be you! There are resources that simplify the process and can help you narrow down your options.
Once you’ve completed the required coursework for your LPN program, the next and final step before you can start work is passing the NCLEX-PN. The exam focuses on multiple-choice questions as well as a few other question types. In the final semester of your program, you’ll receive your application for your LPN license and an application to write the NCLEX-PN.
Is becoming an LPN or LVN right for me?
It’s important to take the time to consider what you want out of your life and your work before you commit to a career path or shift into a new one.
The best LPNs tend to be highly motivated individuals who like working with people. Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings are the typical workplaces for LPNs, and they are often busy and fast-paced environments that require quick thinking, solid decision-making, and the ability to remain calm under pressure.
If this sounds like you, you may be cut out for a career as an LPN, and enjoy the incredible rewards and benefits that this profession offers. Here are just a couple of them.
Job security and job outlook
Being an LPN has significant job security as the need for nursing care in the US is only going to go up in the coming years. From 2019-2029, the projected rate of growth for this career field is 9 percent, which is more than twice the average rate of growth for all professions.
LPNs and LVNs enjoy a very desirable rate of pay. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), The median annual salary for LPNs and LVNs in 2020 was $48,820, which breaks down to $23.47 per hour.
Get on track to become an LPN or LVN today
The biggest hurdle in becoming an LPN is just getting started and picking the right LPN program. That’s where we come in.
Our tools and resources were developed by nurses and career counselors—the people on the ground, who know how complicated and confusing it can be to get clear and accurate information about becoming a nurse.
We can help you navigate your choices. Get started now with our free program finder. It’s easy to use and makes it a breeze to find out which LPN programs are available to you.
Don’t wait to follow your dream. Get on the path to a rewarding and successful career as an LPN or LVN today.