How to Become a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)
A licensed vocational nurse (LVN) is simply the name given to a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in the states of California and Texas. Both LPNs and LVNs provide basic nursing care to patients under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or a physician. LVNs typically work in the same healthcare settings as RNs, including hospitals, nursing care facilities, clinics and doctor’s offices. However, the range of legal and clinical responsibilities of LVNs is smaller than that of RNs.
Although the duties of LVNs and LPNs are basically the same everywhere in the U.S., if you live in either Texas or California you might want to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements that you need to get your LVN certification in your home state.
LVN educational requirements
If you want to become a licensed vocational nurse in Texas or California, you must first enroll in an accredited LVN program at a brick-and-mortar community college or vocational school, or through 1 of the LVN online programs that these kinds of schools usually offer. You will also find numerous accredited online LVN programs offer by a variety of for-profit Internet schools.
Although some of the top LVN programs in certain states are offered through specialized technical high schools, it is important to note that Texas and California do not offer high school-based LVN programs. In order to enroll in an accredited LVN school online or at a campus-based college, you must be at least 17 years old and have a high school diploma or GED.
Once you are admitted to a program, you must pass all of your LVN online courses or classroom-based courses with at least a C average. In addition to successfully completing your classes, both the Texas and California boards of nursing require you to complete a specific number of clinical hours. In Texas, that requirement is about 840 hours of clinical practice while California requires over 950.
Whether you complete your LVN training online or at a brick-and-mortar school, you will usually have the option to enroll part time or full time. Full-time programs will typically require you to complete their curriculum in 12 to 14 months while part-time programs will generally give you 18 to 20 months to finish the same curriculum.
It is also important to understand that students who graduate from LVN schools online or through traditional programs in Texas and California do not receive a degree. Instead, they are awarded a certificate of completion that indicates that they have fulfilled all of the requirements that are set for state-certified LVN schools.
LVN licensing requirements
After you have earned your LVN certificate of completion, you will be eligible to take the NCLEX-PN test. Both Texas and California require you to pass this national exam before you can practice as an LVN. There are several things that you must do before you can actually sit for the test.
Both the California and Texas state nursing boards require you to fill out an application form requesting authorization to take the test for the NCLEX-PN. This application has several parts. First, you must submit fingerprints and go through a criminal background check through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Then you must also fill out a form that allows your LVN school to release your educational information to the state boards of education. Finally, you will have to submit an application fee, which is usually between $75 to $150.
Your application to take the NCLEX-PN will typically take several weeks to process. If your application is approved, you will receive a note either per mail or e-mail called an Authorization to Test. Finally, before you take the exam in Texas or California, you must also register online with a company called Pearson VUE which is responsible for administering the test. The fee to take the test is $200 regardless of your state of residence.
After you schedule your NCLEX-PN, find a testing center near you and actually take the exam, you may have to wait several days to a month before you receive your exam results. If you receive passing results, you must then fill out another application with the California or Texas board of nurses in order to receive your license. In both states, the application for your LVN license costs an additional $200.
Getting your LVN training online
Nursing education at every level requires hands-on clinical experience that you simply cannot earn over the Internet. Accredited LVN and LPN programs online will always have a certain requirement for clinical hours that you must complete in a healthcare setting regardless of your home state. Therefore, you should always be skeptical of any Internet advertisements for LVN programs online which promise that you can fulfill all of your requirements over the web.
However, many of the best LVN schools in Texas and California do provide online options that allow you to complete the classroom portion of their curriculum over the Internet. The best way to find a program that offers LVN classes online is simply to look at the lists of accredited LVN programs that are offered by the Texas and California state boards of nursing. The availability of online courses will vary from school to school, so make a list of your top 10 LVN programs and then have a look at each program’s website to see whether they offer online courses.
Opportunities for advancement
Many nurses who have worked as LVNs for a few years decide that they want to expand their role in the nursing profession by earning a full-fledged RN license. There are no short-cuts for going from an LVN license to an RN license, and the process will always require additional education. In California and Texas, this means that you will need to enroll in and complete either an associates or bachelors degree nursing program.
If you want to continue working as an LVN while you advance your education, you will probably want to look into schools with options for online coursework. However, be aware that many of the online options that you find on the Internet will probably be for LPN to ADN or LPN to BSN online programs in states other than California and Texas. Although you may be able to get credit for online classes through an accredited out-of-state school, your clinical hours will have to be fulfilled in the state in which you live.
An associates degree program will usually take you around 2 years to complete and a bachelors program around 4 years. This additional study time will prepare you for the greater clinical, legal and ethical responsibilities that you will have as an RN. It will also provide you with the advanced clinical and theoretical knowledge that you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and get your nursing license.
In addition to the broader responsibilities that you will have as an RN, you can also expect better pay and more professional options than you had as an LVN. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs earn an average of almost $25,000 more per year than LVNs and LPNs. And as an RN, you will also be eligible to earn advanced nursing certificates in specialized sub-fields like cardiology, forensic nursing or critical care nursing. These certificates not only earn you additional professional prestige, but they can also increase your value on the nursing job market.