As you consider a nursing career, you may be wondering whether to become a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). While both play a vital role in patient care, there are some major differences between the two professions.
What is Vocational Nursing?
Vocational Nurses (VNs) provide basic nursing care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.1
Vocational Nurse duties vary, depending on their work setting. For example, they may teach family members how to care for a relative; help to deliver, care for, and feed infants; collect samples for testing and do routine laboratory tests; or feed patients who need help eating. Experienced VNs oversee and direct other practical nurses or vocational nurses and unlicensed medical staff.
Vocational Nurse Job Duties include:2
- Administer prescribed medications or start intravenous fluids.
- Observe patients, charting and reporting changes in patients’ condition.
- Provide basic patient care or treatments, such as taking temperatures or blood pressures, dressing wounds, treating bedsores, massaging, or performing catheterizations.
- Sterilize equipment and supplies.
- Answer patients’ calls and determine how to assist them.
- Measure and record patients’ vital signs, including height, weight, temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration.
- Work as part of a healthcare team to assess patient needs, plan and modify care, and implement interventions.
- Collect samples, such as blood, urine, or sputum from patients, and perform routine laboratory tests.
- Prepare patients for examinations, tests, or treatments and explain procedures.
- Assemble and use equipment, such as catheters, tracheotomy tubes, or oxygen suppliers.
What is the difference between an RN and LVN?
The Vocational Nurse can collect data on a patient and perform clinical duties under the direction of a licensed physician or a registered nurse. However, the RN is legally responsible for analyzing and evaluating patient data.3
Find out more about the differences between an RN and LVN
Do I want to become a Vocational Nurse?
If you are considering a new career as a vocational nurse, ask yourself these questions:
Are you a good communicator?
- LVNs need to be able to both listen well and communicate effectively with patients and a health care team.
Are you a people person?
- A career in healthcare requires that you interact with a variety of people every day. If you are interested in working closely with people, Vocational Nursing may be a good fit.
Does serving others appeal to you?
- A nurse is first and foremost a caregiver. If you enjoy helping others, a job as a VN may be a good choice.
Are you detail oriented?
- Much of nursing is about observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from various sources including the patient, and the lead nurse or doctor.
Find out more good reasons why you should become a vocational nurse!
1 United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, United States Department of Labor
2 United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010-2020 employment projections. http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2061.00
3 California Nurses Association/NationalNurses Organizing Committee Patient Assessment: Roles of RNs and LVNs
4 CNN Money. It's not just a low-wage recovery. Retrieved Nov. 1, 2012