Practical/Vocational Nursing

Introduction: What Is an LPN/LVN?

Licensed practical nurses, or licensed vocational nurses as Texas and California call them, operate under the supervision of doctors, dentists, and registered nurses. Even though somewhat limited in their scope of responsibilities — they perform a variety of tasks. According to the Explorehealthcare website, they take patients’ vital signs, such as temperature, blood pressure, pulse and breathing. They treat bedsores, prepare and give shots, and even set up IV’s.They also interact with patients, providing massages, ice packs and hot water bottles, and, in addition, emotional support. In addition, these nurses bear the responsibility of watching and reporting patients’ reactions to certain treatments, especially if they are adverse or life-threatening. The more experienced LPN’s/LVN’s also supervise certified nursing aides to ensure that they are performing their duties properly. LPNs/LVNs also administer certain medications to patients, depending on what the rules in certain states allow.

Where Can You Expect to Land a Job?

As an LPN/LVN, you can seek work in a variety of venues. Although hospitals are (and have been) the main places that use these individuals, an increasing number of jobs are beginning to appear in places such as home health care settings, doctors’ private practices, and nursing care facilities.

How Much Money Can You Expect to Make?

The salary in this field varies, indeed. However, the Allnursingschools website quotes the 2012-13 US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook as saying that the median annual LPN/LVN salary is $40,380. Don’t expect to start at this rate, however. Your starting salary may be as low as in the $20,000 range, but will increase as you get more experience. Factors such as specialization, location, and level of education also make a difference.

How Likely Is Employment?

This is, indeed, a growing field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2020, the demand for LPNs/LVNs will have grown by as much as 22 percent, which is a faster than average pace than for other professions. So if you are willing to take the difficult classes, and pass the extensive tests — and are the type of person who performs well under pressure — you are likely to secure employment.

Education: What is Required?

Typically, you’ll undergo a year of training at a hospital, nursing or vocational school. (That being said, it is best to check the requirements in your state about how long you must undergo training to enter this field.) After this year has ended, you must sit for an NCLEX-PN test after graduation from an accredited, state-approved nursing program, according to the National Association of Licensed Practical Nurses. Some of these programs even require an entrance program aimed at testing your aptitude for such a program. You can find such programs at a college, a vocational school, or sometimes even a university that contains a nursing school. But you yourself must be a responsible consumer: Before entering any program, you must check to see if the program is recognized, accredited and approved by the state in which you are seeking licensure. Otherwise, you won’t receive a license, and, as a result, you will not be able to work.

Doing your research on accreditation is especially important, considering the money you must spend. The tuition for such programs typically starts in the $2,000 range, but if you are determined, you can apply to FastWeb and begin searching for grants and scholarships. You can also tap into student loans, but be mindful of the requirement to pay those back once you’ve begun working.

What Will Your Hours/Working Conditions Look Like?

That will vary, depend on your work venue. If you work in an emergency or psychiatric ward of a hospital, for example, expect to work weekends, nights, and holidays, including Christmas. This is, in part, due to the fact that many of these patients require 24-hour care.

Nevertheless, most institutions are willing to pay extra for these unconventional hours. If you decide that being an LPN/LVN is what you would like to do, refrain from making plans that are etched in stone as your phone could ring at any time, with your employer asking you to come in on short notice.

Moreover, you will be required to do a lot of standing and walking. So the job requires a certain level of physical fitness and stamina. For you must lift patients, remove them from their beds, take them on walks, and return them to their beds.

What Is Required Overall?

Being a licensed practical nurse — as well as any other medical professional — requires a certain level of astuteness and alertness. You must be able to respond to any emergency rapidly, due to the fact that life and death are involved, and report accurately to your supervising doctor or nurse what the issue is. So communication skills are also required. In addition, you must be an analytical person who is a problem solver.

Also, you must have a certain level of mathematical ability, so if you are in high school contemplating this career, make sure you possess such skills, and your grades in this field are good.

Most of all, you must demonstrate a sincere caring about people. You must have a concern about their well-being, and a sincere desire to see them recover. You must also possess an excellent bedside manner that is friendly, yet professional. Such traits will take you quite far should you decide later to become a registered nurse.