How To Become a Licensed Vocational Nurse

What Does a Licensed Vocational Nurse Do?

LVN with an elderly man

Licensed vocational nurses (LVNs, also called licensed practical nurses or LPNs in some states) provide compassionate, hands-on care to people of all ages, from newborns to senior citizens. For many vocational nurses, the most rewarding part of the job is the close, meaningful contact they have each day with patients. As front-line providers, LVNs offer physical and emotional support and often form close bonds with the people they care for.

Working under the supervision of a physician or registered nurse, LVNs deliver much of the bedside care that hospital patients receive, from wound dressings to simple laboratory procedures. Much of the workday is spent assisting people with daily tasks like moving, dressing and bathing. Vocational nurses also answer questions from patients and family members and relay concerns to the health care team. LVNs who work in community settings conduct health screenings and educate schools, workplaces and the public about preventative care.

Workplace Details

Until recently, most LVNs worked in inpatient settings such as hospitals, extended care facilities, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. However, new advances in medicine and technology mean that many complex procedures can now be performed on an outpatient basis. This has created demand for licensed practical nurses in physician offices and outpatient surgery centers. In addition, many LVNs work in non-traditional settings such as the military, community programs, industrial and occupational health centers, schools, correctional facilities and home health care agencies.

Most LVNs are employed in clean, well-lit clinical settings, though some travel to patients’ homes, schools and workplaces. Like other health care workers, LVNs have daily exposure to infectious diseases, body fluids, needles and chemicals. They must be very careful to follow safety procedures and use protective clothing like gloves and masks when appropriate.

Most LVNs work full time. Shifts at inpatient facilities often last eight or more hours and include nights, weekends and holidays. Nurses in outpatient settings usually work daytime shifts but cover some evenings and weekends for the convenience of patients.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
Texas
$46110
California
$52670
New York
$47170
Florida
$42960
Ohio
$41320

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0 AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE DC FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

ALABAMA
Median Salary: 
$36,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $47,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 640

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Birmingham$31,390$37,550$48,200
Huntsville$23,860$36,300$48,450

ALASKA
Median Salary: 
$55,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $68,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$41,310$54,390$67,800
Fairbanks$48,060$54,960$62,030

ARIZONA
Median Salary: 
$49,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $39,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $61,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 370

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$40,650$51,070$62,210
Tuscon$37,320$48,380$60,230

ARKANSAS
Median Salary: 
$36,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 470

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$30,300$38,020$47,870
Fort Smith$27,290$35,150$44,650

CALIFORNIA
Median Salary: 
$52,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $35,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $70,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 3,240

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$34,220$49,400$69,330
San Francisco Bay$43,940$59,270$79,340
San Diego$40,710$53,920$70,360
Sacramento$49,710$57,720$73,030

COLORADO
Median Salary: 
$46,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $36,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $60,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 31%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 320

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$39,880$48,780$61,410
Colorado Springs$36,070$45,030$58,730

CONNECTICUT
Median Salary: 
$55,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $70,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 330

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$42,830$56,250$70,860
Bridgeport$41,820$56,370$72,150
New Haven$45,150$56,370$69,110

DELAWARE
Median Salary: 
$49,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $36,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $62,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$41,390$53,750$63,510
Dover$33,660$44,750$55,950

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Median Salary: 
$52,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $66,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$39,510$49,160$62,350

FLORIDA
Median Salary: 
$41,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $55,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,190

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$33,280$43,440$58,140
Orlando$30,720$39,140$50,250
Tampa$33,360$43,660$57,830
Jacksonville$33,200$42,220$54,900

GEORGIA
Median Salary: 
$38,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $28,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,090

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$29,470$40,970$51,390
Augusta$29,640$39,150$50,040

HAWAII
Median Salary: 
$46,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $37,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $59,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Honolulu$40,440$47,800$60,630

IDAHO
Median Salary: 
$39,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,900

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boise$32,020$40,030$49,290
Idaho Falls$28,660$36,410$46,700

ILLINOIS
Median Salary: 
$45,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $61,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 760

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$34,860$49,280$67,370
Rockford$34,760$46,760$62,350

INDIANA
Median Salary: 
$40,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 770

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$33,020$41,820$49,870
South Bend$32,760$41,440$49,240
Fort Wayne$32,680$38,820$55,180

IOWA
Median Salary: 
$39,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 290

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$32,800$42,570$49,890
Cedar Rapids$32,260$40,410$48,790

KANSAS
Median Salary: 
$39,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 220

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wichita$33,110$40,950$48,820
Kansas City$32,150$40,810$49,710

KENTUCKY
Median Salary: 
$38,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 27%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 390

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$32,770$40,630$49,650
Lexington$32,300$40,750$50,220

LOUISIANA
Median Salary: 
$37,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $28,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 780

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$31,150$40,910$49,300
Baton Rouge$32,130$38,400$48,750
Lafayette$26,220$34,680$45,700

MAINE
Median Salary: 
$42,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $50,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$35,440$44,820$56,160
Lewiston$34,000$42,970$49,360

MARYLAND
Median Salary: 
$50,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $63,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 35%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 740

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$40,650$50,950$65,080
Frederick$40,730$52,450$63,410

MASSACHUSETTS
Median Salary: 
$54,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $68,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 560

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$42,830$55,320$69,270
Worcester$42,470$54,120$67,400
Springfield$35,290$49,290$62,450

MICHIGAN
Median Salary: 
$45,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $58,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 510

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$39,150$49,550$60,930
Grand Rapids$35,160$44,570$51,000

MINNESOTA
Median Salary: 
$42,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $52,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 720

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$35,830$44,680$53,900
Rochester$34,480$45,670$58,720

MISSISSIPPI
Median Salary: 
$36,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $28,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $47,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 340

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Jackson$30,060$37,900$47,850
Gulfport$31,370$38,430$46,970

MISSOURI
Median Salary: 
$37,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 660

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$32,950$42,380$51,090
Kansas City$32,150$40,810$49,710

MONTANA
Median Salary: 
$39,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Billings$29,630$40,250$48,650
Missoula$28,080$38,260$50,050

NEBRASKA
Median Salary: 
$39,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 270

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$32,930$41,050$50,620
Lincoln$31,890$38,440$48,210

NEVADA
Median Salary: 
$52,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $63,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 110

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$41,500$52,390$66,350
Reno$40,640$50,440$60,460

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Median Salary: 
$47,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $35,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $60,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Manchester$41,220$50,090$63,070
Nashua$36,240$49,450$60,660

NEW JERSEY
Median Salary: 
$54,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $63,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 700

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$42,030$55,490$65,310
Trenton$39,510$54,630$63,630

NEW MEXICO
Median Salary: 
$46,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $61,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$36,260$47,720$61,430
Las Cruces$29,960$44,400$62,250

NEW YORK
Median Salary: 
$46,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $61,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,400

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$40,400$53,690$64,240
Buffalo$32,310$39,800$52,480
Rochester$32,180$39,780$49,100
Albany$32,270$41,110$50,980

NORTH CAROLINA
Median Salary: 
$42,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $51,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 730

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$31,880$41,900$52,820
Raleigh$34,580$43,490$51,850
Greensboro$33,130$41,970$50,110
Winston - Salem$33,200$42,980$50,050

NORTH DAKOTA
Median Salary: 
$41,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Fargo$31,100$38,960$48,820
Bismarck$34,620$43,860$51,070

OHIO
Median Salary: 
$40,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $50,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,930

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$34,230$44,080$53,540
Columbus$32,980$41,350$50,250
Cincinnati$32,930$43,410$53,460
Dayton$33,250$42,990$55,320

OKLAHOMA
Median Salary: 
$38,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 480

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$29,860$39,200$50,370
Tulsa$31,610$39,100$49,170

OREGON
Median Salary: 
$48,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $60,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 120

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$41,450$50,990$61,060
Salem$39,730$46,220$57,760

PENNSYLVANIA
Median Salary: 
$44,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $59,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,440

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$37,890$51,590$63,660
Pittsburgh$32,550$42,870$50,520
Harrisburg$35,020$45,450$59,060
Allentown$36,390$45,690$58,670

RHODE ISLAND
Median Salary: 
$55,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $68,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$40,940$53,780$64,680

SOUTH CAROLINA
Median Salary: 
$39,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 390

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Greenville$27,670$36,580$47,990
Columbia$30,240$41,850$50,120
Charleston$32,320$42,320$49,670

SOUTH DAKOTA
Median Salary: 
$36,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $28,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 1%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Sioux Falls$27,860$35,750$45,730
Rapid City$31,090$37,220$46,290

TENNESSEE
Median Salary: 
$36,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 28%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,210

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$31,710$38,710$49,920
Memphis$32,490$42,050$49,940
Knoxville$29,350$36,580$47,930
Chattanooga$23,220$35,970$47,620

TEXAS
Median Salary: 
$44,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $60,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 27%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 3,810

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$34,160$46,130$62,390
Houston$36,380$47,220$71,160
San Antonio$33,040$43,330$55,500
Austin$35,450$45,430$59,640

UTAH
Median Salary: 
$42,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $56,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Salt Lake City$37,770$46,370$60,970
Ogden$32,570$41,640$58,560

VERMONT
Median Salary: 
$45,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $59,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 4%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Burlington$38,160$48,410$60,820

VIRGINIA
Median Salary: 
$40,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $53,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,070

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$32,250$39,250$49,980
Richmond$31,910$38,750$51,530

WASHINGTON
Median Salary: 
$48,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $38,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $62,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 310

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$40,960$51,850$64,620
Spokane$38,980$46,460$59,940

WEST VIRGINIA
Median Salary: 
$34,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $47,100

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$26,410$34,490$45,690
Charleston$28,380$35,750$44,880

WISCONSIN
Median Salary: 
$43,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $54,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 290

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$35,830$45,840$58,690
Madison$34,780$45,720$58,570

WYOMING
Median Salary: 
$44,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $55,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cheyenne$32,810$42,640$49,490
Casper$32,310$44,790$55,260

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the annual average salary for LVNs is $44,840. Eighty percent of LVNs earn between $32,510 and $60,420.

Salaries are generally above average in nursing homes and slightly below average in hospitals. Earnings increase commensurate with experience.

The number of employed LVNs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, should increase by 16% between 2014 and 2024, which is much more than the average growth for all occupations. There are many reasons for this growth. For one, the aging of our population is increasing the demand for nursing home and rehabilitation care services. LVNs can therefore expect many new opportunities in long-term care facilities and in agencies that assist people who have experienced stroke or Alzheimer’s disease.

Another factor driving the demand for LPNs is the growing shift toward outpatient care. More physician offices and surgery centers are hiring licensed vocational nurses to assist with procedures and care for patients during brief stays. In addition, a large number of LVNs are expected to retire in the coming decade. Demand will be greatest for licensed and experienced professionals.

Compare Salaries by City

New York City NY Median Pay

$53690 Per Year

$25.81 Per Hour

Los Angeles CA Median Pay

$49400 Per Year

$23.75 Per Hour

Steps to Become a Licensed Vocational Nurse

1

Get a high school diploma.

Admission to the vast majority of nursing programs requires a high school diploma.

2

Enroll in an accredited certificate program.

To begin a career as a licensed vocational nurse, candidates must first complete a certificate program at a career center or community college. When enrolling in an LVN program, it is important to choose an accredited institution that meets state requirements. Contact the state board of nursing for a list of approved programs. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing maintains a list of accredited programs on its website.

Show Me Schools »

The program will last about one year and covers nursing, biology and pharmacology. Students also work under supervision in hospitals and other clinical settings to sharpen their practical and interpersonal skills.

3

Pass the NCLEX-PN.

Licensure is mandatory for LVNs. Upon graduation from an approved program, candidates may apply to the state board of nursing. Once deemed eligible for licensure, they must next pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN), a rigorous, computer-based assessment covering safety, health promotion and physical and psychological care for patients.

4

Consider earning a specialist credential.

In addition, LVNs can pursue voluntary certification in foot care, gerontology and IV therapy through the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses (NFLPN). To earn a specialist credential, they must show evidence of training, obtain a letter of endorsement from a supervisor and pass an exam. The foot care certification requires an eight-hour internship with a registered nurse specialist.

The Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission now offers a Certified Dialysis LVN (CD-LVN) credential for experienced vocational nurses. Requirements include two years of full-time employment and 15 hours of continuing education in dialysis care. Candidates must also pass an exam.

5

Look into advancement opportunities.

LVNs may pursue advanced training in IV therapy, critical care and other clinical specialties to take advantage of opportunities in large hospitals. To enhance their knowledge, LVNs take continuing education courses or intern under the supervision of a registered nurse or nurse practitioner. Experienced LVNs often move into supervisory roles in which they direct the work of fellow nurses, nursing assistants, orderlies and non-licensed professionals. Some entrepreneurial nurses even leave the clinical setting to start health services companies.

Many LVNs eventually return to school to pursue careers in registered nursing, allied health or medicine. Some colleges offer specialized bridge programs to LVNs who seek certification as registered nurses or nurse practitioners.

Exploring the Academic Path

CERTIFICATE PROGRAM

About 1–2 years, depending on prerequisites

In order to work as a licensed vocational nurse, you must complete a training program approved by your state and pass the national licensing exam. Most states list approved schools on their nursing board websites. (Note that some states have a separate board for vocational nursing.)

Vocational nursing programs can also seek voluntary accreditation through the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Accreditation certifies that the school, faculty, and curriculum meet minimum quality standards.

It’s not necessary to attend an accredited program for your LVN certificate, but it can be helpful if you later wish to become an RN or nurse practitioner. For a list of accredited programs in licensed vocational nursing, visit ACEN’s website listing and choose the search term “practical”.

You’ll find licensed vocational nursing programs at many 2-year colleges, career and technical schools, and high schools. Public and private nonprofit schools generally provide better educational value for your money than for-profit schools.

Show Me Schools »

Admission to an LVN program may require college-level prerequisites in English, math, anatomy and physiology, psychology, biology, and human development. Depending on your past education and experience, these classes could take one to two semesters to complete.

Once admitted to the LVN program, you’ll then take an additional year of nursing classes to complete your training. The course sequence is very similar to the first year of an associate degree in nursing and covers:

Foundations of nursing

Learn the basic skills needed to monitor and maintain the health of patients.

Basic pharmacology

Understand the major drug classes, their common uses, how they work, and possible interactions.

Mental health nursing

Looks at the needs of patients with mental health conditions, plus how these affect the health and healthcare.

Maternal child nursing

Study the care of child-bearing families, including pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, newborns, and babies.

LVN students also complete clinical rotations in nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and various hospital departments. This provides an opportunity to practice caring for patients and creating care plans under supervision.

Keys to Success as an LVN

Necessary Skills and Qualities

People skills

Licensed vocational nurses should be compassionate, empathetic people with a genuine desire to ease the suffering of others. Patience and emotional stability will help them to work effectively with difficult patients and those who are frightened or in pain.

Communication skills

Because they act as a key link between patients and other members of the health care team, LVNs need to have excellent communication skills. In particular, they must be able to clearly and accurately describe changes in a patient’s condition.

Teamwork skills

LVNs should also enjoy working collaboratively with colleagues and professionals from other disciplines. They are team players who work closely with other health care professionals to plan, deliver and evaluate patient care.

Attention to detail

Patients need to get the right care at the right time, so LVNs need to attend closely to schedules and details. This is especially important when dispensing medications.

Physical strength

The job demands physical strength as nurses spend long periods standing and walking and often need to physically assist or lift patients.

Additional Credentials

Some states require licensed vocational nurses to undergo additional training and certification before drawing blood or starting IVs. For more info, contact your state board of nursing.

Otherwise, certification beyond your state LVN license is purely voluntary. Additional credentials cost time and money, and not all are well recognized by employers. It’s therefore a good idea to talk to your mentor, employer, or experienced colleagues about which certifications make sense for you.

The National Association of Practical Nurse Education Services (NAPNES) provides certification courses and testing for licensed vocational nurses in the following areas:

Note that some states require their own IV course for certification.

Specialty certifications designate experience and expertise in a particular area of nursing. All of the following credentials have experience and education requirements. Candidates must also pass a test.

Holli Sowerby, EdD, RN

Holli Sowerby is an assistant professor of nursing at Weber State University. Her research interests include the perceptions of graduates regarding laboratory simulation experiences and the effectiveness of simulation.

x