What Is a Vocational Nurse?

A vocational nurse, also called a practical nurse, is a healthcare professional who provides basic patient care. A short training program at a community college or vocational school can prepare you for the job, and you must also meet mandatory licensing requirements. Read on to learn more about this career's job duties, educational requirements, outlook and salary potential. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

Under the direction of a registered nurse or doctor, vocational nurses care for patients in hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare settings. You may choose to work in general care or in a specialty area, such as geriatrics or pharmacology.

The regulations for a vocational nurse's scope of work differ in each state. In some states, you may be limited to offering general care to patients, such as changing bed pans, bathing patients and taking vital signs. In other states, you may have a larger scope of job duties, such as administering medicine, supervising nurse aides and performing laboratory tests. Regardless of the state, much of your work involves interacting with patients and providing education to patients' families.

Important Facts About Vocational Nurses

On-the-Job Training Not provided
Key Skills Stamina, empathy, clear written and spoken communication, situational awareness, attention to detail
Work Environment Nursing care facilities, hospitals, physicians' offices, home healthcare service companies, residential care facilities
Similar Occupations Registered nurses, nursing assistants, orderlies, occupational therapy assistants and aides, physical therapist assistants and aides, psychiatric technicians and aides

Education Requirements

You can usually find vocational nursing programs at community colleges and vocational schools. These programs often take one year to complete, and you'll study anatomy, psychology, medical terminology and nursing techniques. In some programs, you may take courses in specialty areas, such as neonatal care and geriatrics. Clinical practicums are included in most programs.

Licensure

In order to work in this field, you must pass the practical nursing National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). To qualify to take the exam, you usually need to have passed a vocational nurse training program, but additional requirements may be necessary because each state sets its own requirements for licensing.

The NCLEX-PN is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The test covers four areas that include client needs, safe and effective care, health promotion and psychosocial integrity. Some of the topics you'll be tested on include ethics, advocacy, patient rights, infection control, universal precautions, data collection techniques and crisis intervention. You'll also be tested on nursing practices and basic patient care.

Optional Certification

If you choose to focus on a specialty, you might consider getting certified. Voluntary certification can help you showcase your knowledge and skills in a particular area. You might consider certification from the National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service (NAPNES) or the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses (NFLPN).

The NAPNES offers certification in several specialties, including intravenous therapy, pharmacology and long-term care. To gain certification in any of the areas, you must pass an exam with a minimum score. Certifications must also be renewed regularly.

The NFLPN certification options are in the areas of intravenous therapy and gerontology. You must be a licensed vocation nurse and pass an exam to earn certification. Certification must be renewed every two years.

Other Essential Skills

In addition to completing an educational program and obtaining licensure, vocational nurses need to possess several skills to succeed on the job. They have to be compassionate and patient when helping their parents, and they need to be able to handle stress. Strong interpersonal and speaking skills are necessary for interacting both with patients and other medical professionals. They also need to be able to handle the physically demanding aspects of the job, such as standing and bending often.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse employment is expected to increase at a quick rate of 25% over the 2012-2022 decade. This growth is much faster than average and is driven by demand for healthcare services and the retirement of existing vocational nurses. The BLS also notes that there will be favorable job prospects in rural areas or medically underserved locations.

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses earned $43,420 on average as of May 2014, according to the BLS. Most made salaries between $31,640 and $58,710.

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