Vocational Nursing Across the Country
If helping physicians and others care for patients sounds like a career to which you would like to lend your kindness and care, becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN) may be right for you.
Both are entry-level nursing positions that allow you to provide patient care under the supervision of RNs and physicians. Licensure is required. Successfully passing the NCLEX-PN exam is required for LPNs and LVN licensure. Practical Nursing (PN) and Vocational Nursing (VN) programs can prepare you as a graduate to take the NCLEX-PN.
Can an LPN or LVN Become a Travel Nurse?
LPNs and LVNs can work as travel nurses, according to practical nursing.org. Some contracts may necessitate your having worked as an LPN or LVN for at least a year.1 States and workplaces may have varying policies and requirements. You’ll need to have your nursing license for the state in which you want to work. Many jobs for traveling LPN and LVN nurses are in hospital environments.
Some contract arrangements offer options for you to sign up for a few weeks, while others may specify that you make a commitment of a year or more. Most contracting agencies may require a one-year minimum commitment to work as an LPN/LVN in another state, practical nursing.org says. If traveling as a nurse is on your to-do list, be sure to check with agencies and states with whom and where you plan to work.
States have different requirements for nurses who are licensed in one state, but want to practice in another.
You’ll need to be actively licensed in a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) state as an LPN, LVN or RN to be eligible for a multistate license. The NLC enables nurses to to practice nursing across state lines in NLC states without having to obtain additional licensure.
The NLC allows a nurse to have one multistate license allowing them to practice in their home state and other compact states. The NLC currently has 39 participating states while a few others have NLC legislation pending, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). If you declare a non-compact state as your legal primary state of residence, you are ineligible for a multistate license. Your primary state of residence for NLC purposes is the state in which your driver’s license and federal income tax return are filed.
However, you can maintain any number of single-state licenses, even when you live in a non-compact state. To practice in another state, you will need to become licensed in that state according to state-specific licensing requirements.
Tip: The National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s Nursys e-Notify allows you to register to receive automatic license renewal reminders from e-Notify nursing boards via email or SMS. This may come in handy when you are licensed in multiple states.
LPN and LVN Optional Specialty Certifications
LPNs and LVNs typically perform basic nursing duties under the supervision and direction of RNs and physicians, but allowed duties can vary by state and by working environment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.2 LPNs and LVNs may opt to be certified in areas that include pharmacology and medication administration, long-term care, and IV therapy, according to the National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service (NAPNES).3 Certifications may demonstrate to employers that you possess a higher knowledge level in specific areas, the BLS says.4
LPN/LVN Educational Requirements
To become a licensed practical nurse or a licensed vocational nurse, you’ll need to complete an approved educational program and obtain a license to practice, according to the BLS. Such programs are often offered at technical schools and community colleges.
Programs often combine biology, nursing and pharmacology coursework, as well as supervised clinical experience, according to the BLS. After completing a state-approved program, candidates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) to practice.4
You can typically complete a Practical Nursing or Vocational Nursing certificate program in as few as 12 months. A good program can provide you with skills such as:
- Implementing the nursing process to provide patient care in a variety of health care settings
- Preparing to take the NCLEX-PN licensure examination
- Applying critical thinking
- Working collaboratively, communicating clearly, and acting professionally
According to the BLS, LPNs and LVNs typically work in settings that include:
- Nursing and residential care facilities
- Offices of physicians
- Home healthcare services
The National Association of Licensed Practical Nurses (NALPN) works for the betterment of LPNs and LVNs, students enrolled in an approved PN/VN program, and others. It offers state chapter events and a national member directory.
Plan Your Career in Nursing
You can learn more about what a career in practical nursing is like from an experienced practical nursing educator. Learn more about nursing levels, nursing programs, and how to become a nurse in Carrington College’s Guide to Nursing.