What Does a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) Do?

A licensed vocational nurse (LVN), a licensed practical nurse (LPN), plays a pivotal role in various healthcare settings, providing compassionate bedside care to injured, sick, or disabled patients. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the diverse responsibilities and duties of an LVN, the essential skills they need, the settings they work in, their earnings, and the pathway to becoming a licensed vocational nurse.

The Basics of a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)

Let's start by understanding who LVNs are and what they do.

Who is an LVN?

Licensed Vocational Nurses, commonly called LVNs, are healthcare professionals who play a pivotal role in patient care. They work under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) and physicians, providing essential support in various healthcare settings.

What Does a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) Do?

LVNs perform various duties, making them a cornerstone of patient care. Some of their primary responsibilities include:

  • Medication Administration: LVNs are trained to administer medications to patients, ensuring they receive the right doses at the right times.
  • Wound Care: They are skilled in wound care, dressing changes, and monitoring wound healing.
  • Vital Sign Monitoring: LVNs regularly record patients' vital signs, such as blood pressure, pulse, and temperature.
  • Patient Education: They educate patients and their families on health-related topics, helping them understand their conditions and treatment plans.
  • Assisting with Procedures: LVNs assist physicians and RNs during medical procedures and examinations.
  • Collecting Samples: They collect specimens for laboratory testing, such as blood and urine samples.
  • Documenting Patient Information: LVNs maintain detailed records of patients' conditions, treatments, and progress.
  • Personal Care: They assist with patients' daily activities, including bathing, dressing, and feeding, when necessary.

Duties and Responsibilities of an LVN

An LVN typically works in healthcare facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient clinics under the direct supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or a physician. Their responsibilities encompass a wide range of crucial tasks, including:

1. Primary Patient Care

  • Providing comprehensive care to patients as the initial point of contact.
  • Ensuring patients' comfort by assisting with personal hygiene, including bathing and dressing.

2. Vital Sign Monitoring

  • Regularly monitoring and recording vital signs like blood pressure, pulse rate, respiratory rate, and temperature.

3. Medical Procedures

  • Administering injections and inserting catheters.
  • Preparing patients for treatments and surgeries.
  • Drawing blood and maintaining a sterile environment.

4. Communication

  • Engaging with patients to discuss their healthcare concerns and needs.
  • Reporting vital signs and updating patient conditions to doctors and registered nurses.

Essential Skills for an LVN

To excel as an LVN, one must possess a unique skill set extending beyond basic nursing competencies:

1. Stamina and Composure

  • LVNs should be physically resilient and able to stand for extended periods.
  • Maintaining composure and working effectively under pressure is essential.

2. Empathy and Communication

  • Displaying empathy towards patients and their families, providing emotional support.
  • Effectively conveying sensitive medical information.

3. Time Management

Managing time efficiently to provide care to multiple patients and fulfill various duties.

4. Medical Knowledge

  • A deep understanding of medical terminology.
  • Strict adherence to confidentiality protocols.
  • Meticulous attention to detail.

Where Does an LVN Work?

LVNs find employment in various healthcare settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Nursing homes
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Physicians' offices
  • Patients' homes
  • Schools

Most LVNs work full-time, with the possibility of part-time options and shifts that may include weekends and nights. These shifts can sometimes extend beyond eight hours, requiring nurses to be on their feet for extended periods.

Earnings of an LVN

The salary of a licensed vocational nurse varies depending on location and experience. According to Glassdoor, the average LVN salary is $48,880, with the potential for higher earnings as experience grows. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a slightly lower average in 2020 at $37,150 with the top 10% of earners making as much as $63,790.


Licensed vocational and practical nurses are used interchangeably for the same role. The distinction lies in terminology; LVN is used in California and Texas, while LPN is used in all other states.

Vocational Nurse vs. Registered Nurse

LVNs and registered nurses (RNs) often work together but hold different roles and responsibilities. Registered nurses with higher educational qualifications, typically holding a bachelor's degree in nursing, oversee LVNs. RNs have more responsibilities in the workplace, including medication dispensing, advising on treatment, and conducting diagnostic tests, which fall outside the scope of LVN responsibilities. Registered nurses also often supervise LVNs. This increased responsibility is reflected in their higher average salary, with Glassdoor reporting an average of $84,266, while the BLS states an average of $77,600.

How to Become a Licensed Vocational Nurse

Becoming an LVN is a well-defined process involving training, certification, and licensure. Here are the key steps:

1. Educational Prerequisites

Obtain a high school diploma or GED before entering any formal training.

2. LVN Training Program

Complete an accredited LVN training program approved by your state. Community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, or online platforms typically offer these programs. The training can lead to a certificate or diploma upon completion. Some states may offer associate degrees, which take two years to complete.

3. Licensure

After completing your state-approved training, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) to be eligible to work as an LVN. This computer-based exam evaluates your knowledge and competence related to the job.

4. Optional Certifications and Further Training

To enhance your qualifications, consider pursuing additional certifications in specific nursing specialties, such as intravenous therapy, pediatrics, or wound care. Some employers may require these certifications, and they can open doors to supervisory roles.

Job Outlook for LVNs

The job outlook for LVNs is promising, with a projected growth of 9% between 2020 and 2030, primarily due to the increasing demand for healthcare services as the population ages and faces more chronic conditions. LVNs find job opportunities in various healthcare settings, from hospitals to care homes, ensuring many avenues to explore.

FAQs about LVNs

What is the Difference Between an LVN and an RN?

LVNs and RNs play critical roles in healthcare, but key differences exist. RNs have a broader scope of practice, including assessing patients, developing care plans, and administering intravenous medications. LVNs work under the supervision of RNs and perform more basic nursing tasks.

Can LVNs Specialize in Specific Areas of Healthcare?

Yes, LVNs can specialize in various healthcare areas, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or surgery. Specialization allows them to focus on specific patient populations or healthcare needs.

What are the Essential Qualities of a Good LVN?

A good LVN possesses qualities like empathy, attention to detail, strong communication skills, and the ability to work well in a team. These attributes are crucial in delivering quality patient care.

Is There a Demand for LVNs?

Yes, there is a demand for LVNs, and it's expected to grow as the healthcare industry expands. LVNs are needed to care for an aging population and in various healthcare settings.

What Are the Career Advancement Opportunities for LVNs?

LVNs can advance their careers by pursuing further education to become RNs or by specializing in specific areas of nursing. Continuing education and experience can open doors to leadership roles in healthcare.

How Can I Find a Reputable LVN Program?

Research accredited schools and colleges in your area to find a reputable LVN program. Speak to current and former students and check for reviews and accreditation to ensure the program meets high standards.


To embark on a career as an LVN, you should take the following steps: earn your high school diploma or GED, complete a state-approved training program, obtain your license, and consider additional certifications or training to enhance your career prospects. If you need more clarification on this path, consider enrolling in nursing-related courses or exploring vital signs or anatomy specializations to gain a foundational understanding of the LVN role. This comprehensive guide provides the insights you need to understand the world of licensed vocational nursing.

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