What Is The Difference Between A Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) And A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)?

"I have decided to pursue nursing, but I’m not up for the Nurse Practitioner program (not enough money). I figured I’d shoot for the most basic designation of nurse and then work my way up from there when I’ve started earning money and treating patients. My college offers something called a “Licensed Vocational Nurse,” or “LVN.” But I don’t get it—is that the same or different as an LPN? My mother is in the medical field, and she’d never heard of an LVN. She doesn’t think it’s a real job. But it has to be; there’s a degree. So what is the difference? Is the program worth it?"

asked by Julian from Sacramento, CA

If your mother doesn’t live in California or Texas, she may very well not know what an LVN is. What’s the difference between the two? In reality, nothing. The job duties are the same, regardless of whether you become a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Why the two names? It has to do with geography.

For whatever reason, the term LVN refers to nurses who work in this role in California or Texas. You live in California, so the program where you live is called “LVN.” If your mother lives in any other state, she would be familiar with the LPN term. That’s just what an LVN is called in any other state.

Both LVNs and LPNs fulfill the same job role, working under the supervision of registered nurses and physicians. You must pass the NCLEX-PN licensing exam whether you become an LPN or an LVN. Basically, if you decide to relocate at some point and you leave California, your job title may change, but your position will not. You will still be doing roughly the same work.

If you take a course to become an LVN or LPN, you will study a variety of topics, including pharmacology, human anatomy, medication administration, legal responsibilities, nutrition, and preventative care. Most LVN and LPN programs are fairly short. You can probably complete yours in a year or two.

If you are interested in becoming a Registered Nurse (RN), you may find that there is a bridge program at your school. This accelerates you and mobilizes you on your career path after you become a practicing LVN or LPN. Once you start working in that role, you can fit the classes for RN in on top of your professional schedule, and eventually advance to RN.

At that point, you will be able to work with less supervision. If you are keen to work on your own, you can then proceed from there to Nurse Practitioner (NP).

LVNs and LPNs are in very high demand right now, and it’s a career with a lot of opportunity in it, since there is so much room for advancement into other high-demand roles. You will start out with a good salary, and your salary will also increase along with your job responsibilities if you become a Registered Nurse.

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