Vocational nursing continues to be a popular stepping stone to registered nurse training and licensing, or a career in its own right. Licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), also known as licensed practical nurses (LPNs), provide support to other nursing staff and often work in a team based environment.
Vocational nursing training is the quickest pathway to working as a licensed nurse. After prerequisite coursework for admission to a nursing program, students can complete their training in as little as two semesters. Note that this is not a degree program, but after completion of your training at an approved school, you can apply to take the licensing exam and work as an LPN or LVN. If you do intend to go on and get your RN training and license, working as an LPN will give you a good knowledge base to work from in your future studies as well as a lot of flexibility in scheduling work around nursing classes.
LPN vs RN in the Clinical Setting
As an LVN or LPN, you'll usually work under the direct supervision of an RN and have a narrower scope of practice in clinical skills performed. Some states allow LPNs to administer limited IV medications with special training, but some do not. Be sure to check the guidelines in your state to find out what LPNs can and cannot do in a clinical setting. Don't presume that an RN supervisor knows the LPN guidelines for your state, as you will be held responsible for knowing the guidelines and adhering to them regardless of instructions from a supervising RN.
If it sounds like an LPN and an RN are almost comparable, you'll see a notable difference in wages. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2010, LPNs and LVNs make a national average of a little over $40,000 per year, while their RN co-workers earn an average of just under $65,000. Thus, many LPNs go on to get RN training and licensing.
While LPNs may not earn as much as RNs, a vocational nurse earns a generous salary with great benefits. Vocational nursing is a solid career choice, whether short or long term, depending on your career goals.
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