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What is a Licensed Vocational Nurse?

A Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), known also as a Licensed practical nurse (LPN), is a nurse who has gone through a State-approved training program in practical nursing to be eligible for licensure. These programs are offered by vocational and technical schools or community or junior colleges. After completing this training successfully, the vocational nurse has to pass the licensure exam (NCLEX-PN) in order to get the Vocational Nurse license. This exam is developed and administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

The job of a vocational nurse is to care for the sick, injured, convalescent, or disabled under the direction of physicians and registered nurses. The nature of the direction and supervision required varies by State and job setting.

LPNs care for patients in many ways. Often, they provide basic bedside care. Many LPNs measure and record patients' vital signs such as height, weight, temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration. They also prepare and give injections and enemas, monitor catheters, dress wounds, and give alcohol rubs and massages. To help keep patients comfortable, they assist with bathing, dressing, and personal hygiene, moving in bed, standing, and walking. They might also feed patients who need help eating. Experienced LPNs may supervise nursing assistants and aides.

licensed vocational nurse at workAnother part of the licensed vocational nurses daily work may be collecting samples for testing, performing routine laboratory tests, and recording food and fluid intake and output. The LPN will also clean and monitor medical equipment. An LPN may also be called to help physicians and registered nurses perform tests and procedures. Some LPNs help to deliver, care for, and feed infants.

LPNs also monitor their patients and report adverse reactions to medications or treatments. LPNs gather information from patients, including their health history and how they are currently feeling. They may use this information to complete insurance forms, pre-authorizations, and referrals, and they share information with registered nurses and doctors to help determine the best course of care for a patient. LPNs often teach family members how to care for a relative or teach patients about good health habits. In some States, LPNs are permitted to administer prescribed medicines, start intravenous fluids, and provide care to ventilator-dependent patients.

A good LVN or LPN should have a caring, sympathetic nature. She or he should be emotionally stable because working with the sick and injured can be stressful. The LPN also needs to be observant, and to have good decision-making and communication skills. As part of a healthcare team, a vocational nurse must be able to follow orders and work under close supervision.

The Work Environment of a Vocational Nurse

Most licensed vocational nurses are generalists and will work in any area of healthcare. However, some work in a specialized setting, such as a nursing home, a doctor's office, or in home healthcare. LPNs in nursing care facilities help to evaluate residents' needs, develop care plans, and supervise the care provided by nursing aides. In doctors' offices and clinics, they may be responsible for making appointments, keeping records, and performing other clerical duties. LPNs who work in home healthcare may prepare meals and teach family members simple nursing tasks.

Most LVNs work a 40-hour week. In some work settings where patients need round-the-clock care, LPNs may have to work nights, weekends, and holidays. About 18 percent of LPNs and LVN’s worked part-time in 2008. They often stand for long periods and help patients move in bed, stand, or walk.

On the down side, a licensed vocational nurse may face hazards from caustic chemicals, radiation, and infectious diseases. The LVNs are subject to back injuries when moving patients. They often must deal with the stress of heavy workloads. In addition, the patients they care for may be confused, agitated, or uncooperative.

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