What Is an LVN?

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Written by Marie Hasty, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Jeanne Kal Senior Manager, B2C Content, IntelyCare
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Often in healthcare, as in other professions, jobs go by more than one name. Sometimes the difference depends on the geographical area. One instance of a job that’s called two different things in the nursing world is licensed professional nurse (LPN) and licensed vocational nurse (LVN). So what is an LVN in nursing and what do they do? Let’s find out.

What Is an LVN and What Does LVN Stand For?

LVN stands for licensed vocational nurse. These professionals are also known as licensed practical nurses (LPNs). The job duties of an LVN vs. LPN are the same. The only key difference is the name. Texas and California use the term LVN, while other states use the term LPN.

What Does an LVN Do?

LVNs (and LPNs) work under the direction of doctors and registered nurses (RNs). They provide patients with basic bedside care such as primary nursing care, documenting the performance of prescribed medical treatments, and so on.

What is an LVN expected to do as part of the care team? Typical LVN duties include:

  • Providing medical support to doctors, RNs, and patients.
  • Interviewing patients and gather information about their medical histories.
  • Providing essential care to patients such as helping them with eating, toileting, and bathing.
  • Taking a patient’s vital signs, including pulse, blood pressure, and temperature.
  • Reviewing medical records and record new information.
  • Giving patients prescribed medications.
  • Drawing blood and forwarding it to the lab.
  • Setting up ventilators and other breathing treatments.
  • Stocking the supply room.

To know more about what you might do in this role, check out this sample LVN job description. As a licensed vocational nurse, you must be genuinely sympathetic to your patient’s concerns. Patients may experience an array of emotions while they are in your care, such as depression, anger, and anxiety.

So if you have the attention to detail, patience, and the mental fortitude to care for patients during those moments, then you’re a good fit for an LVN job. Check out our sample LVN resume for more details.

Where Can LVNs Work?

While LVNs can work in hospitals and private physician practices, most LVNs work in post-acute care settings such as:

Curious about where else you could work? Check out all the LVN jobs on IntelyCare to see who’s hiring.

How to Become an LVN

What is an LVN required to do in order to practice? To be licensed and registered as an LPN/LVN, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Age requirement: Be at least 17 years of age.
  • Educational background: Have a high school degree or the equivalent.
  • Character assessment: Demonstrate good moral character, often evaluated through references or a character assessment.
  • LVN Education program: Enroll and complete an approved licensed vocational nursing program. These programs, typically offered by vocational schools or community colleges, provide the necessary theoretical and practical training.
  • Examination: Pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN), a standardized exam that assesses the knowledge and skills essential for safe and effective practice as an entry-level LPN/LVN.
  • State licensure application: Apply for an LPN license in your state. This process involves submitting required documentation, such as proof of education, exam results, a background check, and any state-specific requirements.

What Is an LVN Expected to Earn?

The average annual LVN pay is $55,860 (about $27 per hour). Note that your wages can be affected by your years of experience, location, facility, and certifications. The states with the highest annual pay for LPNs and LVNs are:

What Are the Benefits of Licensed Vocational Nursing?

Comparatively Low Barrier to Entry

Most licensed vocational nurses complete their education and can prepare for a career within 12 and 20 months, while other nursing education programs require more than twice that amount of time to finish.

Opportunity to Further Your Education

Once you earn your LVN certification and work for a period of time, you can study to become a RN. Furthering your education allows you to grow your expertise in a focus area of nursing and increase your income.

Rewarding Work

As an LVN, you’ll make a genuine difference in people’s lives. LVNs are a source of comfort that makes them feel comfortable, adding to their overall well-being.

Flexible Work Hours

LVNs are required 24/7 and in high demand, with many shifts for the taking. You can set your work hours to suit your schedule. This is ideal for good work/life balance.

Good LVN Skills to Hone

LVN responsibilities involve caring for patients under the supervision of an RN. In this role, you’ll need:

  • Clinical competence in administering medications, doing wound care, and monitoring vital signs for accurate and safe patient care.
  • Effective communication so that you can educate clearly, listen attentively to patients, and collaborate effectively with the healthcare team.
  • Detail-oriented documentation to ensure thorough, precise, and standards-compliant medical records.
  • Critical thinking skills for timely decision-making, problem-solving, and adaptation to evolving patient needs.
  • Cultural competency so that you can care for patients from a broad range of backgrounds.
  • Collaboration skills to work as a team with other nurses, physicians, and healthcare professionals.
  • Adaptability to handle unexpected situations, changes in patient conditions, and variations in workload.
  • Time management to balance responsibilities, prioritize tasks, and ensure timely interventions.

Common FAQs About LVNs

What’s the difference between LVN and RN titles?

The training and requirements of an LVN vs. RN vary greatly. An LVN program generally takes just one year to complete; an RN has more education than an LVN. RNs must earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Depending on which RN degree you pursue, you’ll spend 18 months to 4 years in school. Additionally, RNs must have a passing grade on the NCLEX-RN exam.

While certain duties of an LVN vs. RN can and do overlap, an RN has more independence and often supervises an LVN. RNs may dispense medicine to patients, perform diagnostic tests, document a patient’s medical history, coordinate care plans, and more. LVNs provide patients with more basic medical care, but can also assist an RN in their duties.

What’s the difference between LVN vs. LPN?

LVN and LPN refer to the same role in different states. The use of LVN is more common in Texas and California, while LPN is more prevalent in other states. Despite the naming difference, the roles and responsibilities are similar.

What’s the difference between CNA vs. LVN?

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) and an LVN also have some overlap in duties, but the training for a CNA can be completed in as little as 4 to 12 weeks. CNAs provide direct care to patients by helping them performing activities of daily living (ADL) such as eating, getting dressed, and bathing. They also help keep a patient’s room clean and tidy. Learn more about the difference between LVN vs CNA.

How long does it take to become an LVN?

The duration varies, but LVN programs generally take around 12 to 18 months to complete. This includes both classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience. Prerequisites for LVN programs include a high school diploma or equivalent, and completion of specific coursework.

What Is an LVN Able to Accomplish in Their Career? Find Out!

If you’re excited about the prospect of providing high-quality care as an LVN, you’ll want to know which jobs will let you do that. Find out how IntelyCare can match you with the types of nursing jobs that most interest you.