Vocational Nurse vs Practical Nurse: Which Is The Right Career Path For You

Vocational Nurse vs Practical Nurse
Vocational Nurse vs Practical Nurse

Starting a career in nursing might be quite overwhelming due to the amount of nursing subspecialty you can work in and the types of degree and pathways to dive into this profession. Among those, the ones that could cause much hesitation are Vocational Nursing and Practical Nursing. In this article, we identify the differences between them and answer commonly asked questions of which is the better option.

Who are Vocational Nurses and Practical Nurses?

Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) both have an essential and indispensable role in intensive care units, especially with hands-on patient care. If you’re looking to get a nursing degree, first, you’ll need to establish which licensed program is most suitable for you.

Both LVN and LPN are someone who takes care of the sick, injured and sometimes even disabled patients. Working under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN), LVN and LPN offer primary bedside care for patients, providing medication to patients in hospitals, nursing, or rehabilitation facilities.

Differences between Vocational Nurses and Practical Nurses

1. Vocational Nurses and Practical Nurses duties

With licensed vocational nurses, their scope of practice will vary based on their work settings. During the daily basis, besides providing basic nursing care such as performing tests and recording vital signs, if they work in home care settings, they will also be changing bandages, dressing and bathing patients. An LVN will also perform supervisory function over healthcare workers such as nurse’s aides and assistants, plus, they’ll also be handling the documents related to the care.

Vocational Nurses and Practical Nurses duties
Vocational Nurses and Practical Nurses duties

Other specifics tasks of an LVN and LPN include:

  • Provide basic treatments such as bedsores, giving enemas or douches, massaging patients or performing catheterizations
  • Work in collaboration with other healthcare team members, assessing patient’s need to modify the treatment plan or implement intervention
  • Assemble and maintain equipment such as catheters, tracheostomy tubes and oxygen suppliers
  • Prep patients for upcoming operations, administer tests and examinations as well as explain the procedures thoroughly
  • Perform routine lab tests, collecting samples and records patient’s improvements
  • Frequently check on inventory and requisition supplies, making necessary request to maintain stocking limit
  • Helps patients make appointments with doctors and perform other clerical duties in doctor’s offices
  • Prepare and set up equipment in the medical rooms, sterilize the supplied using germicides, sterilizer, or autoclave

2. Education and training

Working as a LVN or LPN is a great option if you’d like to try out the nursing profession, whether you’re suitable or not. They are both much less expensive than studying to become a Registered Nurse and can even be done in less than 2 years.

For Vocational Nurse, most training programs are accredited by community colleges, hospitals or even vocational schools, and they are often given a certificate or diploma when completed. They usually have to take courses related to the human’s anatomy, physiology, pediatrics, obstetrics, medical-surgical nursing and first aid.

Education and training
Education and training

In order to become a practicing Practical Nurse, you’ll need to start by earning a high school diploma, something of the equivalent. Then, you’ll need to graduate from a certified LPN program, which is often 1-year long. These programs will have coursework and practical application combined, giving you a full spectre of the LPN profession.

After completing the programs and on field training, aspiring Practical and Vocational Nurses will still have to sit through an examination in order to obtain full licensure and be able to practice rightfully under the law.


LVN and LPN share a resemblance in scopes of practice, but their differences lie in the training courses. They also have a difference in salary. On average, a LVN earns about $77,150 whereas an LPN salary is at about $65,000 per year. According to the BLS, the vocational and practical profession is going to experience a growth of 9% from 2020 to 2030. Additionally, with a background in either profession, you can always advance your career and go on working as a RN nurse, and even Surgical Nurse through earning the NCLEX degree. Some colleges even have a special program, accepting previous LPN and LVN credits, which will shorten the time to achieve the BSN degree.