Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) Program Overview
One of the quicker ways to begin a career in nursing is to become an LPN, also known as an LVN in California and Texas. Depending on the state, LPNs/LVNs can be limited to performing certain tasks.
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Work Settings for LPN/LVN Graduates
- Nursing Care Facilities
- LPNs and LVNs work in nursing homes, checking vital signs, inserting and monitoring IVs, giving enemas, applying bandages, and inserting catheters. LPNs/LVNs cannot give IV push medications or start an IV medication.
- Medical and Surgical Hospitals
- LPNs/LVNs may find opportunities in medical and surgical hospitals. Responsibilities include conducting general assessments or therapies, managing patient data, and performing treatment approved by physicians.
- Mental Health or General Nursing Care Facilities
- These LPNs and LVNs plan, implement, and evaluate patient care methods under the supervision of licensed RNs and physicians. Other duties include adhering to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and other safety regulations.
- Home Healthcare Services
- In-home healthcare service LPNs and LVNs travel to patients' homes to perform exams and administer medication. Other duties include maintaining patient data and coordinating with RNs or clinical management.
- Physicians' Offices
- Physicians' offices often hire LPNs and LVNs to document patients' medical histories, collect vital signs, change bandages, and set casts. Other tasks include administering immunizations or providing physician support during pelvic exams.
How Much Will I Make With an LPN/LVN Certificate or Diploma?
Mean Hourly Salary
Mean Monthly Salary
Mean Annual Salary
*SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
How To Become an LPN/LVN
Find an Accredited Practical or Vocational Nursing Program
Apply to LPN/LVN Programs
Attend LPN/LVN Classes
Graduate from an LPN/LVN Program
Register for NCLEX-PN Exam
Pass NCLEX-PN Exam
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Admission Requirements for an LPN/LVN Program
Aspiring LPNs and LVNs can pursue programs in community colleges, technical schools, hospitals, and high schools. Students should note that requirements vary by institution. However, schools typically require each applicant to hold a high school diploma or GED certificate and a minimum 2.5 GPA.
While programs do not require prerequisite coursework beyond standard high school courses, a solid background in math and science helps students excel in these programs. A vocational nursing applicant may also need to provide letters of recommendation and a resume.
Core Concepts in an LPN/LVN Program
LPN/LVN education prepares graduates to apply nursing processes in healthcare settings to promote healing. Schools also focus on creating ethically driven professionals who work within the legal boundaries of LPN/LVN professional practice. LPN and LVN programs examine nursing competencies and theories, including the following:
- Fundamentals of nursing
- Anatomy of the human body
- Processes of disease
Students also learn to provide high quality care and examine the best strategies for developing care plans for specific populations. The following are typical courses focused on specialized care giving:
- Mental health nursing
- Maternal and pediatric nursing
- Geriatric nursing
LPN and LVN nurses also need hands-on experience before entering the field. Therefore, the LPN/LVN curriculum includes multiple practicum experiences that amount to over 1,500 hours.
Clinical and Lab Components in an LPN/LVN Program
LPN and LVN requirements include clinical hours and lab components. Students should note that the amount of hours varies by state. Mandatory field experience hours usually range from 500-750 hours. However, the best programs often include practical experience to fully prepare graduates for the field.
What To Expect From an Online LPN/LVN Program
Interested students considering careers as LPNs or LVNs can earn their degrees online. Courses may follow an asynchronous format, allowing enrollees to complete coursework at any time to meet their deadline dates. Assignments may include exams, essays, and projects. Students engage with instructors and peers through online discussion boards and email.
Other online courses may use a synchronous format, which requires live attendance through students' webcam. Synchronous learning still requires degree seekers to submit assignments digitally. While students can complete courses online, programs require in-person attendance for clinicals and other field experiences.
Is an LPN/LVN Program Right for Me?
The nursing field offers professional opportunities at multiple levels, allowing students to begin working without an extensive time commitment to their education. Aspiring professionals who need to begin working quickly often choose to complete LVN or LPN requirements, which comprise a year of education before entering the field.
Professionals who earn LPN or LVN credentials before entering RN programs gain more experience, which creates a competitive edge when applying to ADN or bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs. However, an LPN certificate comes with limitations in the field. For instance, LPNs do not qualify for leadership opportunities and cannot work in as many settings as RNs. LPNs must work under licensed professionals at all times and do not earn as much as RNs.
- Only requires a year of school
- Can begin accruing professional experience quickly (e.g., running a feeding tube)
- Creates a competitive advantage when applying to advanced nursing programs
- Does not qualify for leadership opportunities
- Cannot work in as many settings as RNs
- Has limitations to scope of practice compared to RNs
- Must work under a licensed professional at all times
- Does not earn as much as RNs
Frequently Asked Questions
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Elizabeth Clarke (Poon) is a board-certified family nurse practitioner who provides primary and urgent care to pediatric populations. She earned a BSN and MSN from the University of Miami.
Clarke is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.