Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Licensure for Practical and Vocational Nursing

May 1, 2021

Duties of Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses

In 1944, the U.S. Department of Vocational Education commissioned an intensive study of practical and vocational nursing tasks. The outcome of this study differentiated the tasks performed by the LPN/LVN in relation to those tasks performed by the registered nurse. As a result of this study, individual state boards of nursing began to specify the duties and responsibilities that could be accomplished by each group of nurses.

Position Paper of the American Nurses Association

In 1965, the American Nurses Association’s First Position on Education for Nursing was released. The document outlined recommendations for the educational levels for the nurse to enter practice. It recommended a 2-year technical education be provided in vocational and community college settings. Graduates of these programs would earn an associate of science degree. The professional nurse would earn a baccalaureate degree. The paper did not specifically discuss the LPN/LVN. Practical and vocational nurses have nonetheless certainly proved their worth. Under the supervision of a registered nurse or physician, they provide excellent bedside nursing skills in many areas of service. The 1965 position paper of the ANA was another influence that brought about a change in attitude toward practical and vocational nursing.

Licensure for Practical and Vocational Nursing

Licensing laws have been passed to protect the public from unqualified practitioners in most fields and professions. In the mid-1950s, states moved toward mandatory licensure for nurses. The laws passed were managed by state agencies such as the state boards of nursing. The state’s nurse practice acts provide specific information about the scope of practice for the differing nursing levels. On completion of a nursing program, the graduate is eligible to take the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical Nursing (NCLEX-PN®). Once the examination is successfully completed, licensure is awarded by the state of ap­plication.

Laws That Monitor the Licensed Practical Nurse and the Licensed Vocational Nurse

Licensing for practical/vocational nurses in the United States began in 1914 when the state legislature in Mississippi passed the first laws pertaining to that group. This licensing followed the passage of laws on licensing for RNs. The passage of such laws governing practical and vocational nursing in other states did not rapidly follow. After the outbreak of World War II and the opening of a large number of practical and vocational nurses training programs, all the states were forced to pass legislation concerning their licensure. By 1955, all states had passed laws in this area in consonance (agreement) with the standards set by NAPNE. The State Board Test Pool of the NLN Education Committee established a testing mechanism for all states and administered the examination several times a year throughout the country. Graduates of a state-approved practical or vocational nursing education program were eligible to sit for the examination; if they passed, they became LPNs, or LVNs as they are called in Texas and California. Each state set its own required passing score on the examination.

Today graduates of an approved LPN/LVN education program are eligible to apply to take the licensure examination. This application must be approved by the individual’s state board of nursing. On completion of the computerized examination with a “pass” score (numerical scores are no longer given), the graduate is issued a license to practice as an LPN or an LVN.