A licensed vocational nurse (LVN) performs many of the same basic duties as a registered nurse (RN), but require supervision from a physician, physician’s assistant, registered nurse or advanced practice nurses. The state of Texas does not specify which duties LVN’s can or can not perform, but does say vocational nurses are required to “maintain a safe environment for patients,” and can not diagnose or prescribe treatments. Generally duties do includes monitoring patient vitals, administering some medications, and helping wash patients who are bed-ridden.
Some LVN’s can gain a focus at their workplace to narrow their duties and patients, such as focusing on pediatrics, emergency settings, or gynecology.
While some licensed vocational nurses can work in supervising or research positions, the vast majority of LVN’s in Texas work as general duty nurses at rehabilitation centers, and clinics, or even detention centers.
Also keep in mind, that while the state of Texas is broad in its regulation of nurses and their duties, some counties or cities throughout Texas have their own laws to regulate how nurses can practice medicine.
How to Become an LVN
To become a licensed vocational nurse in Texas, you must complete a program at an accredited vocational nursing school (passing all nursing courses with at least a C) and then apply for the license by passing “NCLEX-PN” exams from the state. The process also requires you submit fingerprints and go through a background check.
Texas requires a minimum of 1,398 clock hours divided into 558 hours for classroom instruction and 840 hours for clinical practice. The curriculum will include nursing care of the aged, of children, of expectant mothers, and individuals with mental problems.
If you satisfactorily complete the accredited vocational nursing program, and register with the exam administrators, the state will receive notification, and send you a note called the Authorization To Test, so that you can schedule your state exam. After you receive passing results, you must submit the application for the license, for which there is a is $200 fee that is not refundable.
After you take the exam, you are allowed to practice nursing as a graduate while you await your test results.
To renew your license every other year, you must take 20 contact hours (2 quarter credits or 1.5 semester credits) of continuing education every two years, which can be done online.
There are also some certifications recognized by the state to fulfill the continuing education requirement. A membership certification with The National Association for Practical Nurse Education & Service, Inc. is recognized as continuing education. Other certifications are recognized if the certifying agency is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, or by the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification.
Another certification that is often optional, but extremely helpful for LVN’s is a CPR certification. Check with the American Heart Association for locations that offer the course in your area. Usually the certification only requires a day or a few hours of commitment.
Transition from LVN to Registered Nurse (RN)
Many schools that offer LVN programs, also offer accelerated tracks to convert the LVN education to that required to become a Registered Nurse (RN). Many nurses enter the field as LVN’s because there is less education required and they can start making money more quickly, but once you are already working as an LVN, employers may often be supportive of allowing you to maintain your job while you return to school.
One benefit of going back to school to become a registered nurse is that there are a lot more jobs available, and they generally pay more. Some health clinics that have low budgets decide to skip the licensed vocational nurses and staff only registered nurses.
RN’s may develop the initial nursing care plan and make nursing diagnoses, and can oversee LVN’s.
An LVN to RN track offered at Kilgere College takes 72 semester hours completed in 16 months. Students who are already LVN’s start the first nine weeks attending class only once a week, while other students catch up in the program. At Southwest Texas Junior College, 71 credits are completed in one year, and you earn an Associates degree that should prepare you for the RN testing. At Southwest, a general price per semester is about $1,027.
Difference between LVN and LPN
In states other than Texas and California, a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) is known as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and there is no difference in duties or qualifications between the two job titles.