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Difference Between LPN and LVN

nursingLPN vs LVN

For anyone who has ever been in a hospital, either as a patient or a visitor, will know that there is a variety of clinicians who participate in the care of the patient. Two of these caregivers are the Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN). This article discusses the similarities and differences between these two fields in the nursing profession.


LPN are nurses who have passed the educational requirements to obtain their license; with the next step in their profession being a Registered Nurse (RN). LPN are generally found working under a doctor’s, or RN’s supervision in a variety of hospitals or clinics, and are currently found providing home health care, and practicing in long-term nursing care facilities.

LVN are also nurses who have passed the individual state’s educational requirements to gain a license, and also have their next professional step as that of an RN. LVN perform their nursing duties in various hospitals, long-term nursing facilities, convalescent homes, physician’s offices, and surgical centers. They perform many similar duties to the RN.


The first LPN/LVN nursing school was established at the Young Women’s Christian Association in 1892, in New York City. Initial training lasted three months at the Ballard School in 1893, where these future nurses learned homemaking and caring for patients as the required components of their training; whereas, other states had no licenses until 1955. Requirements varied from certifications in a nine month program to certifications lasting three years for specialties such as surgery, pediatrics or anesthesia.

Nursing programs today that offer LPN/LVN training have a moderately intensive list of topics that are required for licensing, such as communications, critical thinking, dosage calculations, drug reference and interactions, ethics, and other specialties.


In Texas, the educational requirements for the title of LVN require students to complete 20 contact hours every two years, and a targeted (once-off) two hours of contact in Continuing Education for LVN who are working in Emergency Rooms and Forensic Evidence Collection. California requires 30 contact hours of Continuing Education, every two years, for license renewal.

The remaining 48 states have varying requirements for contact hours and continuing education hours, and the title earned in these states is LPN. Some states, such as New York, require the completion of three contact hours for infection control every four years; and others, such as Florida, require additional study in Prevention of Medical Errors, HIV/AIDS and Domestic Violence, to retain the LPN title.


1 Basically, the educational requirements of both LPN and LVN are very similar, and their duties are consistent within the two professions.

2 The only real differences originate with the states and the titles in the licensing of the two occupations. In Texas and California, the educational requirements are the same, but the title is LVN; whereas, all other states with the same educational obligations, bestow the title of LPN.

3 Both occupations require a minimum of a high school graduation certificate, or GED, prior to entering Nursing School, along with a clean criminal record and graduation from an approved accredited practical nursing program.

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