A vocational nurse, sometimes called a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN), works with registered nurses to provide physical, emotional and spiritual care to patients. LVNs and LPNs receive the same training and pass the same licensure test; the only difference is the title.
In California and Texas, vocational nurses are called LVNs. In the other 48 states, nurses with similar training are called practical nurses or LPNs.
On the Job
A vocational nurse provides care under the direction of a registered nurse or physician. They administer medications, provide wound care, monitor body systems, keep patients comfortable, assist with activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, and feeding) and educate patients and families.
In some states, vocational nurses can start IVs. They often provide care for a group of patients and work closely with other vocational nurses, registered nurses and nursing assistants.
Where Vocational Nurses Work
Vocational nurses work in a variety of settings. Most–28 percent–work in residential care facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted living settings. A vocational nurse can also work in medical clinics, hospitals, mental health facilities and patients’ homes. Some vocational nurses work in dental offices or optometrist offices.
Vocational nurses attend a one-year training course that’s typically offered at a community or vocational college. The course includes classroom work in the basic health sciences and nursing care. Clinical rotations are incorporated to give students real-life, hands-on experience with nursing skills such as administering medication, monitoring vital signs and juggling the care of two or more patients.
After graduation, students must pass the National Council Licensure Examination- Practical Nurse (NCLEX – PN) to become licensed. Vocational nurses must also meet the requirements of their state board of nursing to become eligible for employment.
Demand for vocational nurses is expected to grow by 21 percent, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Demand varies by geographic area and employment setting. Demand is particularly strong in the South and West; Texas, Florida, Louisiana and Arkansas employ many vocational nurses.
Nursing care facilities, clinics and home care agencies are expected to hire most vocational nurses in the future as care moves out of hospitals and the population ages. Wages are typically highest for vocational nurses who work with employment agencies or in nursing care facilities.