Nurses make up the largest sector of healthcare employees in America with more than 3 million workers. The future is bright for individuals seeking careers in nursing because even more will be needed in the near future to meet the needs of the nation.
There are currently over 46 million people living in the United States who are over 65 years old. The United States Census projects this number will more than double by 2060. In conjunction with increasingly prevalent chronic illnesses, such as obesity and diabetes, the need for nurses is at an all-time high.
While many future nurses opt to attend four-year colleges and universities for their degrees, licensed vocational nurses can enter the workforce sooner. Many licensed vocational nurse (LVN) programs can be completed in less than two years.
It is crucial that the number of nurses in the workforce meets the demand for healthcare in the coming years. An increase in licensed vocational nurses can help meet these needs.
What is a Licensed Vocational Nurse?
What exactly is a licensed vocational nurse? The California Board of Vocational Nurses and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT) describes a licensed vocational nurse as “an entry-level health care provider who is responsible for rendering basic nursing care.” They typically work under the guidance of a registered nurse or a physician.
A licensed vocational nurse (LVN) and a licensed practical nurse (LPN) are the same in educational requirements, certification process and the tasks they perform on the job. The titles may be used interchangeably.
What do they do?
Licensed vocational nurses work along side doctors and registered nurses in a variety to different medical settings. Common tasks licensed professional nurses perform include the following:
•Monitoring a patient’s health (i.e. taking blood pressure, temperature, etc.)
•Administration of basic care (e.g. applying/changing bandages, inserting catheters)
•Listening to patients’ concerns and address them
•Maintaining patients’ health records
The responsibilities of an LVN are not as extensive as a registered nurse (RN) or a nurse with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). However, depending on the state in which they are employed, a licensed vocational nurse’s role may be vastly different than LVN’s in another state.
Where do they work?
Among the many places licensed vocational nurses are employed are physician’s offices, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals and nursing homes. Where doctors and registered nurses are employed, there are also likely to be LVNs.
In addition to medical establishments, licensed vocational nurses are often employed by insurance companies or for insurance purposes. In such instances, these nurses conduct examinations of individuals to protect employers against fraudulent workers’ compensation cases.
How do you become a LVN?
Students seeking to become licensed vocational nurses typically enroll in a LVN program at a college offering a program. LVN programs are comprised of both theory and clinical components.
The specific number of hours required to complete an LVN program vary depending on the school and the state in which the school is located. Using California as an example, the BVNPT curriculum requires 1,530 total hours of study: 576 hours of theory and 954 hours completed in a clinic. The 576 hours of theory include 54 hours of pharmacology.
Once the clinical and theoretical work is completed, students receive a certificate from the program. Following completion of the program, aspiring vocational nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Candidates must pass the exam to work in the healthcare field as LVNs.
All vocational nurses in the United States are required to take and pass the NCLEX. The exam measures a candidate’s competencies needed to perform the role of a licensed vocational nurse safely and effectively. Each state in the U.S. has at least one board responsible for the licensure of nurses. The licenses required by the state boards of nursing help ensure public safety.
LVN vx. BSN
There are many benefits of enrolling in an LVN program at a vocational school as opposed to a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program at a four-year university. One advantage that LVN students have over BSN students is that they can enter the workforce sooner. Whereas BSN programs traditionally take four years to complete, LVN programs are typically completed in less than half the time, between 12 and 20 months.
Another upside to choosing the LVN route compared to pursuing a BSN degree is the price tag. Depending on the school, a four-year BSN degree can cost between $40,000 and $200,000. On the other hand, LVN programs tend to run between $20,000 and $40,000.
Nursing programs at four-year colleges require stellar academic performance in the first two years of classes for admission into that institution’s nursing school. Even with immaculate grades, there are a finite number of students accepted each term. With LVN programs, there is no such waiting or rigorous application process for admission.
Alternatives to in-state education
Though completing a vocational school’s LVN program in one’s desired state of employment is one way to qualify to take the NCLEX, it is not the only way. Just as each state has its own nursing board, each state also has its own guidelines for licensure exam eligibility.
California, for example, has three additional ways a candidate can qualify for the exam beyond completing a licensed vocational nursing program in the state.
Other means of qualifying include completing an approved out-of-state licensed vocational nursing program or equivalent schooling and experience. Applicable education and experience in the United States military is also an option for gaining NCLEX eligibility.
Candidates can visit their respective state’s nursing board’s website for more information on licensing eligibility options.
Given that LVNs perform a variety of duties in a variety of different medical settings, it is no surprise that the job outlook for licensed vocational nurses is promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses to increase 16 percent by 2024, relative to 2014. The BLS attributes this projected growth to the rising demand for healthcare services needed to care for the aging baby boomer population.
According to the National Council on Aging, “about 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 68 percent have two.” Licensed vocational nurses will be especially needed in residential care facilities to care for this aging generation.
The BLS also suggests that job prospects are even more favorable for candidates who “are willing to work in rural and medically underserved areas.”
While the national employment of licensed vocational nurses is expected to rise at a greater rate than the average of other occupations, the outlook in California is even more promising. The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) anticipates that LVN employment in California will increase by 21 percent during that same period.
How much do they make?
Much like the projected number of job openings in the coming years, the median pay for licensed vocational nurses is higher than those of other occupations in America on average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, licensed vocational nurses earned a median annual salary of $43,170 as of May 2015. The median for LVNs was almost $7,000 more than the median of all total occupations. LVNs working for in government settings earned the most, while those working in physicians’ offices earned the least of the top industries in which they were employed.
Education is the first step
A quality education can help an aspiring licensed vocational nurse stand out during their quest for healthcare employment. Summit College’s Licensed Vocational Nursing program is one of the largest LVN programs in California is accredited by the California Board of Vocational Nurses and Psychiatric Technicians. Students who enroll in Summit College’s LVN program receive a well-rounded nursing education that allows them to provide optimum care after licensure.
Summit College offers both full-time and part-time enrollment in its LVN program, providing students with flexibility around their busy lives. The full-time program offers classes during the day and can be completed in 12 months. The part-time program offers classes during evenings and weekends to accommodate students who work other jobs. Students in the part-time program complete it in 18 months. Summit College offers its Licensed Vocational Nursing program at its Colton Campus.
Summit College offers plentiful resources to its licensed vocational nursing students to help them prepare for the NCLEX. Such resources include full-time NCLEX tutors and NCLEX review classes, which are offered for free as part of enrollment in the program. In some cases, students may be eligible for financial assistance with first-time application costs, in addition to other fees associated with acquiring a vocational nursing license.
Summit College also offers students career assistance beyond acquiring their vocational nursing license, including resume help, mock interviews and externships. These resources help LVN students capitalize on lucrative entry-level healthcare jobs. In 2015, LVNs in California earned a starting salary of $35,760.
Licensed vocational nurses start making a difference and saving lives sooner than other nurses. The need for nurses will not be going away any time soon. Discover the Summit Difference. Get started today at summitcollege.edu.