Many people don’t know or understand that there are differences between and LVN or licensed vocational nurse and an RN or registered nurse. In fact, if you are the patient, unless you look at their badges for the credentials you may never know. There is a however a difference although what that exact difference is varies from state to state. Regardless of the slight differences, LVN nursing training can be highly beneficial to the student who wants to pursue a lifelong career in nursing and yet wants to get started nursing quickly.
It is helpful to understand some of the differences between the levels of nursing in order to decide if the LVN track is right for you. Typically, a licensed vocational nurse is not allowed to push IV drugs, this simply means they cannot inject medications into IVs. They are also not usually legally allowed to do patient assessments. Additionally, in many states they are not allowed to work in acute units such as the ICU. These are the major differences that can be found in the two levels of nursing, except of course for the pay difference.
Licensed vocational nurse training can start as early as high school and is also offered in some vocational schools. These courses can be found in technical schools, junior colleges and even offered at times by hospitals. There are also online LVN classes; however, these are usually in conjunction with nearby medical facilities that will monitor testing and provide clinical experience.
The classes and clinical work can take between 9 and 18 months to complete. Once the classes are complete, the LVN or LPN as they are known in some states (licensed practical nurse) can take the NCLEX-PN examination to become licensed.
The student who goes through LVN classes and becomes licensed has more education and skills than the CNA but not as much as the RNLVN courses typically include:
- Nursing Fundamental
- Modern Health Issues
- Nutrition and Diet
- Growth and Development
- Intro to Pharmacology
- Psychiatric Nursing
- Medical-Surgical Nursing
- Maternal Child Health
- Biology, chemistry, algebra and other core classes
These are a sampling of the classes that are part of the curriculum for LVNs. Registered nurses have much more theory or lecture work than LVNs do and are set to move up in their career while the LVN would need to continue their education to progress.
Completing an LVN program and becoming certified prepares the nurse to work in a variety of medical settings. These nurses work with doctors and registered nurses to provide care and treatment to people in hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities. Some of the duties that the licensed vocational nurse will perform include:
- Monitoring patients and recording changes, reporting any changes to the RN in charge;
- Supervising nurse aids in their duties
- Collect samples such as urine and blood for lab tests
- Take and record vitals on a routine schedule
- Change and monitor catheters
- Change wound dressings
- Massage and give alcohol rubs as needed
- Give injections and oversee oral medications
There are many other duties that you may do as a licensed vocational nurse under the supervision and direction of the on-duty registered nurse.
Earning your degree as a licensed vocational nurse can give you a wonderful, rewarding career in and of itself or it can be a stepping stone to moving on to a degree that allows you to become a registered nurse and beyond, if desired. There are many programs and tracks to take the LVN to the RN without having to start all over again with some of the classes. This is because many of the classes in the LVN program are part of the RN program. This means that the nurse with an LVN license can go back to school and be able to advance themselves into higher positions.
If you walk the halls of your local hospital you will find many nurses who have been practicing for many years as an LVN and you will also find many RNs who will tell you that they are just as educated and good at their jobs as many registered nurses. Licensed vocational nurse training can prepare you to be one of the many nurses whose life has been devoted to helping others.