Similar Titles

Charge Nurse, Clinic Licensed Practical Nurse (Clinic LPN), Clinic Nurse, Home Health Licensed Practical Nurse (Home Health LPN), Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), Office Nurse, Pediatric LPN (Pediatric Licensed Practical Nurse), Private Duty Nurse, Radiation Oncology Nurse, Triage LPN (Triage Licensed Practical Nurse)

Job Description

Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs)—or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), as they are called in every state but California and Texas—offer essential nursing care to patients in many healthcare settings and situations. From hospitals to private homes and residential care facilities, LVNs perform a diverse array of tasks, such as monitoring patient health, assisting with daily living activities, providing emotional support, and administering medications in some cases.

They work closely with registered nurses and doctors to ensure patients receive appropriate personalized care along their unique healthcare journeys. In addition, LVNs often act as the first point of contact for patients and their loved ones. In-home settings, they may assist families with implementing the care instructions of the supervising nurse. Their compassionate care and clinical expertise are pivotal to the health outcomes of those they serve.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Making an impact on the health, life spans, and daily quality of life of patients
  • Growing demand in the healthcare field
  • Numerous opportunities for personal and professional growth
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule
Licensed Vocational Nurses typically work full-time, and can expect night, weekend, and holiday shifts.

Typical Duties

  • Monitor patient vital signs (i.e., blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, etc.)
  • Provide basic care such as bandage changes and assistance with bathing, dressing, and eating
  • Discuss concerns and explain care plans with patients and families, based on instructions from the supervising registered nurse (RN) or physician 
  • Observe patient behavior and routines; ensure patient safety and comfort
  • Communicate updates to healthcare team members regarding patient status
  • Document given care, maintain diligent records, and handle intake/discharge procedures
  • Assist with patient mobility, transport, and preparation for procedures
  • Coordinate patient care with therapists, specialists, or others, as directed
  • Manage hygienic conditions and practice infection control
  • Restock supply inventories, or delegate tasks to assistants
  • Set up and maintain medical equipment
  • Administer medications based on state guidelines and training 
  • Guide patients in effective pain management techniques
  • Perform wound care, when trained and as delegated
  • Respond to emergencies and code blues under supervision
  1. During a code blue, LVNs may be authorized to start IV infusions, draw blood, perform blood glucose checks, and administer oxygen, if trained
  2. They may also be tasked to direct responders, record and document staff actions, help move patients, ensure patient belongings are gathered during transport, and explain events to family members
  3. Be familiar with the Incident Command System (depending on employment situation)

Additional Responsibilities

  • Administer and monitor patient response to oxygen therapy
  • Provide pre-operative and post-operative care, helping to ensure speedy recoveries
  • Participate in continuous training and professional development
  • Supervise others based on state rules and employer policies
  • Advocate for patient rights and provide emotional support to patients and their families
  • Assist with specimen collection and laboratory tests, as directed
  • Educate patients about self-care and long-term symptom management
  • Maintain patient confidentiality
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Adaptability
  • Bedside manner
  • Compassion
  • Composure
  • Conflict resolution
  • Critical thinking
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Dependability
  • Detail-oriented
  • Emotional resilience 
  • Empathy
  • Integrity 
  • Interpersonal skills 
  • Multitasking
  • Observant
  • Patience
  • Physical stamina
  • Relationship-building
  • Reliability
  • Safety conscious 
  • Sound judgment 
  • Strong communication skills
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Time management

Technical Skills

  • Proficiency in electronic health record (EHR) systems for documentation and medical history tracking
  • Skilled in operating and maintaining medical equipment such as blood pressure monitors, glucose meters, and intravenous infusion pumps
  • Understanding of pharmacology, medication administration, and monitoring for adverse reactions
  • Expertise in wound care management (i.e., dressing changes, monitoring for signs of infection, etc.)
  • Knowledge of patient assessment techniques, vitals monitoring, and ability to identify condition changes
  • Ability to help develop, implement, and adjust individualized healthcare plans in collaboration
  • Competency monitoring, evaluating, and documenting rehabilitation progress
  • Adherence to sanitation, sterilization, hygiene, and infection control protocols
  • Proper wear and use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Proficiency in providing mobility assistance and use of assistive devices
  • Knowledge of basic physical therapy exercises for patient support and recovery
  • Familiarity with emergency response actions (including IV infusions, oxygen administration, patient transport, and Incident Command System, in some cases)
  • Familiarity with medical software such as:
  1. eClinicalWorks 
  2. Epic Systems 
  3. Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System 
  4. Infusion management software
  5. Medical condition and procedure coding software
  6. MedicWare EMR
  8. PointClickCare
  9. Prescription processing software
  10. Telephone triage software
Different Types of Organizations
  • Alzheimer’s facilities
  • Assisted living centers
  • Community-based adult day care centers
  • Continuing care retirement communities
  • Correctional facilities
  • Government and community health agencies
  • Home healthcare services
  • Hospice care facilities
  • Hospitals rehabilitation units
  • Military and veterans’ facilities
  • Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities)    
  • Nursing homes and long-term care facilities
  • Occupational health settings
  • Outpatient centers
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Rural clinics
  • Schools
Expectations and Sacrifices

LVNs/LPNs have demanding roles and must juggle tasks while maintaining the utmost precision and attention to detail. They’re expected to manage their time efficiently to ensure all patient needs are tended to promptly, correctly, and with suitable compassion. They must be meticulous record-keepers while staying focused on the immediate needs of the patients under their care.

The job can be physically demanding, especially when dealing with patients who have mobility issues—or when required to be up on your feet all day. Sometimes patients are dealing with circumstances that may make them difficult to manage, but LVNs/LPNs must maintain their composure and not let the stress get to them.

Hours can run long, with night shifts, weekends, and holidays often expected. Due to the pressure and laborious nature of this profession, Licensed Vocational Nurses need to take enough time for self-care to prevent exhaustion and burnout, which are common triggers that can drive nurses to retire.

Current Trends

A significant trend in the nursing world is the increased use of technology, such as electronic health records (EHRs) and telehealth services, requiring LVNs to constantly update their tech skills. There’s also a growing emphasis on preventive care and chronic disease management—areas where LVNs can engage in patient education and support.

Due to the national nursing shortage, LVNs are starting to undertake certain additional responsibilities that once fell on the shoulders of Registered Nurses. While this can be burdensome at times, it’s also an opportunity for career growth! The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 5% growth in employment opportunities for LVNs through 2032, which is higher than the average projected growth for all occupations.  

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Licensed Vocational Nurses/Licensed Practical Nurses are often natural caregivers. They may have helped take care of family members in their younger years, or perhaps always felt a strong desire to help others in need. They’re also highly practical and great at providing motivation—traits that could have been developed through extracurricular activities in school. Perhaps their most defining characteristic is the willingness to persevere through challenges so their patients can reach their health goals. 

Education and Training Needed

Education Needed

  • To apply to a state-approved LVN/LPN training program, applicants need a high school diploma or GED equivalent
  • A good GPA plus a solid background in subjects like math, science, biology, chemistry, anatomy, reading, and English is beneficial
  • Entrance requirements vary by school. LVN/LPN programs generally require applicants to take an entrance exam, such as ATI’s Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS)
  1. The TEAS consists of four general subjects: Reading, Mathematics, Science, and English/English language usage. The exam may be taken online or in person but must be proctored
  • Programs also require a math or English placement test, or even a college placement test such as the SAT or ACT
  • Some programs may require that applicants first earn a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification
  • LVN/LPN training programs are offered through community colleges, vocational/technical schools, and some four-year colleges
  • In addition, many vocational-oriented high schools offer career pathway programs in health sciences or certain LPN classes or dual enrollment opportunities that allow students to gain college credits
  • LVN/LPN students may choose to pursue either a 12 to 18-month certificate/diploma or an 18 to 24-month associate’s degree program, if they plan to pursue becoming a registered nurse later
  • Common course topics may include: 
  1. Assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation and evaluation
  2. Basic pharmacology (medications)
  3. Medication administration, injections, intravenous
  4. Therapeutic verbal and nonverbal communication techniques
  • Patient-centered and direct nursing care
  • There are no 100% online programs, but certain schools offer some LVN/LPN courses online or via a hybrid method. This is because programs must include supervised clinical experience
  • Upon completion of training, LPN/LVN program graduates must sit for the National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurse (NCLEX-PN) exam before applying for state licensure. They cannot work without a license
  • Licenses are renewable, but renewal usually requires completion of continuing education classes. Requirements vary by state
  • Based on state or employer guidelines, LVN/LPNs may need to meet mandatory immunization requirements, such as seasonal flu vaccination, Tdap, MMR, hepatitis B, varicella, and meningococcal
  • They may have to pass criminal background and drug screening
  • A valid, current state driver’s license and clean driving record may be needed
  • Licensed Vocational Nurses may complete optional credentials, such as:
  1. American Board of Managed Care Nursing - Certified Managed Care Nurse
  2. American Board of Wound Management - Certified Wound Care Associate
  3. American Council on Exercise - Weight Management Specialty Certification   
  4.  American Medical Certification Association - Patient Care Technician Certification    
  5. American Red Cross - Basic Life Support Certification (i.e., CPR and AED)
  6. Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. - Infection Control Certification 
  7. Board of Nephrology Examiners Technology Nursing - Certified Peritoneal Dialysis Nurse
  8. Certification Board for Urologic Nurses and Associates - Certified Urologic Associates Certification 
  9. Certified Medication Assistant (CMA)
  10. Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association - Certified Hospice and Palliative Licensed Nurse    
  11. International Board for Certification of Safety Managers - Certified in Healthcare Safety - Long-Term Care
  12. National Alliance of Wound Care - Wound Care Certification    
  13. National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service - Intravenous Therapy Certification    
  14. National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration in Long-Term Care - Certified Assisted Living Nursing    
  15. National Association Of Emergency Medical Technicians - Advanced Medical Life Support    
  16. National Center for Competency Testing - Nationally Certified Patient Care Technician
  17. National Certification Board for Alzheimer Care - Certified Alzheimer Caregiver    
  18. Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission - Certified Dialysis - Licensed Vocational Nurse
Things to look for in an university

Licensed Vocational Nurses don’t have to attend training at a university. Training programs are available at community colleges, vocational/technical schools, nurse training schools, and select four-year colleges. In addition, CNA programs are offered in some high school programs. 

  • Review the LVN/LPN training and licensure requirements for the state in which you plan to work.
  • Consider tuition costs (in-state/out-of-state rates), discounts, scholarships, and course delivery options (on-campus, online, or hybrid program).
  • Look for accredited programs with strong reputations and high pass rates for the NCLEX-PN exam
  • Review the options for clinical experiences in local healthcare settings.
  • Consider the duration of the program and the flexibility of schedules.
  • Review faculty bios and awards. Learn about graduation rates and job placement stats. Peek at the accomplishments of the alumni network!
Things to do in High School and College
  • Volunteer in healthcare settings to gain exposure and pick up practical skills
  • Take classes in high school related to anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, physical education, nutrition, psychology, health sciences, first aid, math, and English
  • Consider studying a second language that may be common in your area
  • Earn good grades so you can get accepted into a suitable Licensed Vocational Nurse training program (or, if needed, a nursing assistant program first)
  • Develop a consistent workout schedule so you build stamina and strength while managing stress
  • Maintain a healthy diet and regular meal schedule, to keep your energy levels consistent 
  • Participate in school activities where you can develop skills in project management, teamwork, leadership experience, and conflict resolution 
  • Think about your long-term goals. If you might want to become a registered nurse later, consider that when deciding if you want to earn an LVN diploma, certificate, or an associate’s degree in nursing
  • Consider the format you want to take classes in. Some topics are fine for online study, but others need to be learned in person 
  • Research any unique state or potential employer requirements for becoming a Licensed Vocational Nurse. Keep in mind that you may have to pass a criminal background check or drug screening
  • Request to do an informational interview with a working LVN/LPN to learn about their daily duties
  • Check out online articles and videos about the pros and cons of the career field, the typical duties, the settings you could work in, and extra certifications you may want to pursue!
  • Maintain a list of contacts (with phone numbers or emails) who might serve as future job references 
  • Keep a working draft of your resume and update it as you gain experience
Licensed Vocational Nurse Roadmap
Licensed Vocational Nurse
How to Land your 1st job
  • Once licensed, LVNs/LPNs can explore job postings via sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, healthcare-specific job search sites, and the websites of applicable employers 
  • Note, that many recruiters have established pipelines with local CNA/LVN/LPN training programs, so talk to your school’s program manager or career center about job placement assistance
  • Network with fellow healthcare professionals to learn about job opportunities. Don’t underestimate the power of “word of mouth” recruiting! 
  • Advertise yourself on LinkedIn and keep your social media professional. Potential employers often screen candidates’ online activities
  • Check out Licensed Vocational Nurse resumes for ideas on formatting, phrasing, and keywords to use
  1. Keywords may include: patient care, medication administration, vital signs monitoring, patient education, wound care, chart documentation, teamwork, communication skills, IV therapy, infection control, nursing care planning, and CPR certification
  • Review potential interview questions to expect. Do several mock interviews to practice your responses
  • During interviews, exhibit a positive attitude, demonstrate your awareness of applicable terminology and awareness of current trends, and convey your ability to physically and mentally handle the workload
  • Read about the strategies recruiters use, to gain a perspective of their mindset during interviews
  • Dress professionally for interviews
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Discuss your long-term career objectives, including the possibility of becoming an RN, with your supervisor. Seek their guidance and mentorship to chart a clear path forward!
  • Consider enrolling in an LPN-to-RN bridge program
  • Build a reputation for exceptional patient care and demonstrate your readiness for advanced roles
  • Gain a comprehensive understanding of your employer’s policies and procedures
  • Strictly adhere to care plans and protocols, showcasing your commitment to patient safety and comfort 
  • Maintain stringent sanitation and hygiene standards. Always wear your PPE when required
  • Foster effective communication with patients, families, fellow nurses, and the rest of the healthcare team 
  • Regularly read nursing journals such as the Journal of Nursing Care Quality and participate in continuing education courses
  • Pursue advanced certifications, such as the National Alliance of Wound Care’s Wound Care Certification or the National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service’s Intravenous Therapy Certification to broaden your skill set
  • Master the use of medical equipment and software, positioning yourself as a subject matter expert
  • Exhibit competence, integrity, reliability, initiative, and leadership
  • Share your knowledge with fellow LPNs, mentoring others and setting a high standard to follow
  • Engage with local, state, or even national professional nursing organizations like the National Association of Licensed Practical Nurses to network, stay informed, and have fun! 
Recommended Tools/Resources



  • Case Studies in LPN/LVN Nursing, by Janis McMillan 
  • Next Generation NCLEX-PN Prep 2023-2024: Practice Test + Proven Strategies (Kaplan Test Prep) Sixteenth Edition, by Kaplan Nursing 
  • Understanding Anatomy & Physiology: A Visual, Auditory, Interactive Approach, by Gale Sloan Thompson RN 
Plan B

Licensed Vocational Nurses are vital to healthcare, providing frontline patient care and essential medical support. However, their role can be physically demanding, involving lifting patients, moving equipment, and long hours on their feet. For students interested in exploring additional healthcare-related careers, check out the below options!  

  • Dental Hygienist    
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographer    
  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical Dosimetrist    
  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Physical Therapist Assistant
  • Physician Assistant    
  • Psychiatric Technician
  • Registered Nurse
  • Respiratory Therapist    
  • Social Worker
  • Surgical Assistant 


Online Courses and Tools