What is an LVN?

LVN programs are some of the most popular with people who want to pursue a career in nursing, but it is important first to understand what this career is all about. LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse) is a job title given to a particular type of nurses in California and Texas. In the other 48 states, these professionals are known as Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and they work under the supervision of physicians or registered nurses in a hospital or any other healthcare facility. LVNs are the most common type of nurses in most hospitals, but very few people can tell them apart from a registered nurse as they perform all the essential roles you would expect to get from an RN. However, their most important duty is to provide patients with the basic bedside care. Training takes between one and two years depending on the school you enroll at but nowadays most prefer to take an accelerated program so that they can be in the job market in a few months.


LVN Job Description and Roles


LPN is one of the most respected careers in the healthcare sector and although they are not as skilled or highly trained as registered nurse they perform almost as much work. They can be employed in many other places apart from hospitals such as nursing homes, home health care, and medical offices. Their job description will depend on the particular area that they work and also the level of experience because those that have been practicing for many years know more and hence have more responsibilities. However regardless of where you work the following are some of the roles that you should expect to perform as a vocational nurse.

  • As an LVN, you will be the ears and eyes of the physician and RN in a hospital as they are in contact with the patients more often. They monitor vital signs, administer medicine and communicate all their observations to other medical professionals.
  • Practical nurses also with ensure that a patient’s care plan is followed as required. They help in creating these care plans and also accessing whether they are effective.
  • These professionals also do patient education which is part of any care plan. In the same role, they also advocate for the rights of their patients with the aim of improving their condition every day.
  • Another role is to collaborate with other medical professionals such as CNA’s and RNs to ensure that the patients get the best care possible


Overview of LVN Programs in the USA

Once you know what a vocational nurse is and their roles the next step in the process of pursuing this career is to understand what the programs for their training are like in the USA. These programs will vary from school to school or from one state to the other since different nursing boards may have a different licensing requirement. However, most programs in the USA take an average of 15 months, and the student only learns the fundamental nursing skills, but some programs will go into more details and cover a few courses in advanced nursing. These programs are offered either on campus or online depending on the school and your preferred mode of study. Regardless of how you choose to study you still have to undertake clinical practice which is part of the program and also necessary for graduation and licensing. The number of hours required will also vary with the state but in most you have to, at least, practice in a clinic setting for 400 hours. Taking more clinical hours will be beneficial for a student especially when looking for employment as it shows that you are more experienced.


What defines an Excellent Vocational Nurse Program?

The quality of education is the main thing that characterizes a good LVN program, but it is not always easy to know this since you have not taken the program before. However, you can use statistics from several nursing bodies and state department for education to get this information. To know that the school you intend to enroll in will offer you quality training you should look for things such as the number of people enrolling in the program, completion rate and also the pass rate. The best programs will always attract more students and so a high enrollment is a reliable indicator of quality. You should also consider the duration of training and the clinical hours offered as these will have a bearing on your career. The faster you can be able to go through the program the better for you and also if you get more hours the more experiences you will be. Whereas some schools will only offer you as little as 300 hours, others make it possible to get up to 600 hours of vocational nurse clinical hours.

LVN Bridge Programs

It is common to transition to LPN from a nurse aide, and it is always good to advance to higher levels in the nursing profession. If you are already a vocational nurse, some programs can help you move to other nursing careers such as RN. The following are some of the bridge programs to and from other courses for vocational nurses.

  • CNA to LVN: A CNA is the beginning of a career in nursing and after some time as a CNA most people will want to further their education and become vocational nurses. Unfortunately, most schools do not consider the academic qualification of a CNA, and so you will have to go through everything from the start. However, the training you get as a nurse aide will have many advantages when training to become an LVN. Since you know what is expected of a caregiver and you have some experience the vocational training will be very simple for you as you are familiar with most things taught.
  • LVN to ADN: Although a career as an LPN is very rewarding it is always the desire for most to further their career by advancing their education. An ADN is a good stepping stone, and the best thing is that you will receive exemptions in most schools and hence you can finish the associate degree many months earlier. A nursing associate degree is not as comprehensive as a BSN but is prepares you for RN entry position jobs.
  • LVN to RN: RN is the next logical step after LVN, and you can even skip the associate degree as it is not as comprehensive. To become an RN, you have to take a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and it is a typical four-year degree. However if you take the LVN to RN bridging program, you can finish the course in half the time.


Online Licensed Vocational Nurse Programs?

With the advent of the internet, most people now prefer to take studies online for different courses. The schools have also not been left behind because almost all the reputable universities and colleges in the USA have an online program. The advantages of taking your LVN training online cannot easily be summed up, but convenience and cost saving are perhaps the main ones. A few years back you could easily count the number of institutions offering professional nurse training, but this is no longer possible as the number has increased drastically. However, if you want to take these online programs, the firsts step is to find an accredited school.

Any program that you choose should be accredited by NLNAC (National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission) as this shows that the program meets the standards required by the governing bodies. Apart from ensuring that you get a quality education accreditation is also important for online programs as it is one of the main requirements for taking the NCLEX certification exams for LPNs. Some of the top accredited online programs for LVN in the USA include those offered by the following schools.

  1. Independence University
  2. St. Josephs College
  3. California University of Pennsylvania
  4. South University
  5. Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences


Free LVN Programs

Although these programs are not as expensive as a BSN, they are still quite costly. Training in any healthcare profession is very expensive and with the hard economic times, it is not easy to pay for these programs. To help you achieve your dreams of becoming a vocational nurse you should look for ways to get the training for free or, at least, to subsidize the cost so that it can become more affordable for you. The first place that you can look for free LPN training is in a community college. Some community colleges in different states offer this program for free as part of their social responsibility to empower the youth around it. However, the student will still have to pay for the certification exams as the colleges only cater for tuition.

If you are already a nurse aide in a hospital then this is also a good place to look for free training as some employers will sponsor you for the training but this is often subject to you working for them for some time after completion. The Nursing Corps Scholarship is also another reliable way to get the training for free. It is a program under the Department of Health and Human Services that offers a full scholarship to students that meet certain requirements. Others schools like Austin Community College have put some internal measures in place to give financial aid to their LVN students.


Licensed Vocational Nurse Programs by State

Different areas in the USA are under different nursing bodies and so the level of training required to get a license to practice as a vocational nurse will vary. For example, in some areas you have to complete more than 400 hours of clinical hours whereas 300 hours are sufficient for others. Below is an overview of LVN programs in the state of Texas and California which are home to more vocational nurses than most other states in the USA.

  • Texas: The cities of Huston, Dallas, El Paso, Austin and St Antonio have many accredited schools that can offer you the quality of training required to get a license to practice as a vocational nurse. Top schools for LVN in Texas include Trinity Valley College, Western Texas College, and Temple College. After the one year training in any of the schools, you have to get a license from the Texas Board of Nursing.
  • California: California has one of the highest salaries for practical nurses. However, cities like San Diego, Sacramento and Los Angeles that have some of the best schools in the state also happened to charge the highest tuition fees. Some of the schools that you can go for this course in the state include Kaplan University, Casa Loma College, Summit College and MiraCosta College. Just like in Texas you will need to get a license from the California Board of Vocational Nursing before you can practice in any city of the state. California also has a very high number of these caregivers. In a city like San Diego, they make up 20% of the total nurse population.


Requirements for Enrollment

Enrollment for an LVN course is not as strict as other nursing professions since they do not undergo a very comprehensive training and the course only takes a year. There is also no requirement for prior clinical experience as a nurse aide as you can join the program straight from high school. However, you should have a high school diploma to be enrolled, and some colleges will require you to have passed some prerequisite courses like introduction to human biology and human development. Apart from this, the only other requirement concerns the financial obligation of the course. Yu should also meet any other requirement that may be set by the state government before enrolling in a university or college within their jurisdiction.

How much Do LVN Programs Cost?

The cost of training as an LVN will depend on your state and also the school that you choose to go for your studies. In some states like California, you should be ready to spend at least $30,000 on the tuition fees, books, and supplies. What you also pay varies with the caliber of the school of your choice because if you go to famous institutions, then you will probably pay up to $50,000 if not more. Private schools also charge more than public ones, and there are also special discounted fees for in-state students. And so it is a good idea to take the course in your state. Online programs can be half as cheap as the campus-based, and so they are a good idea if you do not have enough funds since the quality of training is almost the same.

Checklist to Become an LVN


Step 1: Search for accredited online or campus based LVN programs near you and provide the documents required for enrollment.

Step 2: Take the one or two year course and hands-on clinical practice

Step 3: Apply for licensure with your respective board of nursing by paying the required fee and having your school send them your transcripts.

Step 4: Register for and pass the NCLEX-PN exams

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