What’s the Difference Between an LVN and an LPN?

There are a variety of nursing titles available based on your education and the type of certification you receive. Two that you may be considering are “licensed vocational nurse,” or LVN, and “licensed practical nurse,” or LPN. Both are quick ways to enter the field of nursing, but what is the difference between the two?

The short answer: There is no difference! In actuality, you need exactly the same educational training and certification to be an LVN as you do to be an LPN. The title you receive is simply determined by the state in which you live and work. LVN is the title given to this level of nurse in two states, California and Texas. All other states in the United States are given the title of LPN.

As a LVN or LPN you need to go through a training program, which typically lasts about a year and can be taken online. There is a fairly high turnover rate in this field because with your LVN or LPN certification, you can enter an associate’s degree program to become a registered nurse (RN). From there, you can get your bachelor’s degree, or even go on to get a master’s degree in order to become a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse midwife, or certified nurse anesthetist. All of these career paths are possible, regardless of whether you start as an LVN or as an LPN.

Due to the high turnover rate and people living longer than ever before because of technological medical advances, LVN/LPNs are in high demand. According to the graph below that is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this feild is projected to grow 25 percent by 2022. You can absolutely see the demand when you compare it to the national average projected growth of just 11 percent.

Job growth 2012-2022 LVN/LPN

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections Program

LVN/LPNs are essential in the healthcare process. In your LVN/LPN role, you will be responsible for basic patient care. Here are some of the tasks you may do on a daily basis:

  • Checking Vital Signs
  • Monitoring Patients
  • Assisting With Feeding
  • Assisting With Patients’ Personal Hygiene
  • Preparing Patients For Surgery
  • Collecting Samples For Laboratory Tests
  • Cleaning Rooms & Equipment
  • Preparing Injections
  • Gathering Family History
  • Recording Other Patient Information

In addition to those tasks, they are also responsible for ensuring that the patient sees a nurse or doctor as soon as they need to in the event of an emergency. While LVNs/LPNs are responsible for a myriad of tasks in any healthcare facility, they cannot diagnose patients or treat most medical conditions. In some states, you may also start intravenous fluids or administer prescription medications to patients as a LVN or LPN with the proper additional certification.

Supplemental education can really broaden your range of responsibilities, and can be found through certification or continuing education programs. These programs are frequently offered online, which gives you the freedom to complete the courses and work as a LVN/LPN simultaneously. If you are not ready, or simply do not want, to continue your education beyond an associate’s degree, continuing education and certification courses allow you to be aware of the latest developments of your career. They also provide the opportunity to learn more about specialized care for pediatric, psychiatric, or geriatric patients.

No matter where you work, in order to work in this field, you need to take a licensing exam, which is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. State requirements may vary. If you plan on moving, you may have to retake the exam in that other state. However, many nurses who are certified in one state can easily transfer their certification to another. This is especially true if you’re an LVN working in California and want to move to Texas (or vice-versa).

As an LVN/LPN, your starting salary will not be as high as those who received other nursing degrees. Since it only takes a year of training to work in this field, many students opt to start their careers at this level of nursing. This affords you the opportunity to gain experience in the healthcare field while pursuing RN, BSN, or MSN programs online or in a traditional setting as you continue to work as a nurse.

Online LVN to BSN Degree Programs

LVNs can earn a BSN degree online in half the time and cost of traditional programs. Achieve Test Prep has a 92% pass rate on exams, no waiting lists to get started, low cost financing options available, and no long-term contacts required. You can learn at an accelerated pace and earn college credit-by-examination and then transfer to an ACEN accredited nursing school or 100’s of universities nationwide.
South University provides students both a Bachelor's and Master's program in Nursing. The on campus bachelor's degree prepares students for careers at acute care hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and community-based clinics. The online master's degree provides advanced study in clinical teaching skills and research.

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