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VN vs. RN

What is the Difference Between VN and RN?
If you are considering a nursing career, this is a question you may be asking yourself as there may seem to be little difference between registered nurses (RNs) and vocational nurses (VNs). In fact, they are often grouped into the same category. Although both administer medications, dress wounds, and insert catheters, and either one may work in a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office setting, there are a few distinct differences between VNs and RNs. From scope of practice to education, here are a few key differences between the two types of nursing careers.

Scope of Practice
Scope of practice defines which specific tasks a nurse is allowed to perform, and the scope of practice differs between RNs and VNs. While RNs are independent in many areas, VNs must work under the supervision of an RN or physician and cannot, under any circumstances, practice independently. While VNs provide basic nursing care that includes monitoring patients’ health and discussing health concerns with patients, an RNs duties go a step further. Not only do RNs provide basic nursing care, but they educate patients and the public about health conditions, consult with doctors, operate and monitor medical equipment, and help perform diagnostic tests and analyze the results, among other duties.

Education
Typically, VNs must complete an accredited nursing program. The vocational nursing course covers subjects such as biology, nursing, and pharmacology. In many cases, these programs are combined with supervised clinical experience so students can gain a hands-on understanding of the field. After getting their diploma, graduates will be prepared to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). If they pass the exam, they will get a license and be eligible to work as an VN in all fifty states.

Since RNs have a greater scope of practice, prospective RNs can expect to spend more time in school. Typically, RNs take one of three education paths: an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN), a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree, or a nursing diploma or certificate. Bachelor degree programs usually include more training in the physical and social sciences, which is becoming increasingly more important as the nursing field continues to become more complex.

Job Outlook
Although the availability of both RN and VN positions are expected to grow through 2020, the job outlook for RNs is slightly more positive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the availability of RN jobs is expected to grow 26 percent through 2020, while VN jobs are expected to grow 22 percent through the same year. Regardless of whether you choose to become an RN or VN, the job outlook is positive. The BLS attributes the growth in both fields to advances in technology; as technology continues to improve, doctors and nurses will be able to treat a greater number of ailments and, as a result, the demand for nurses will stay strong.

VN to RN Programs
If you decide to get an VN license and would like to become a practicing RN down the line, the process isn’t difficult. Education programs are built to help students transition between the two careers; the programs typically offer flexible scheduling and financing options, since most transitioning students continue to work throughout the process. If you do decide to transition to a career as an RN, be sure to investigate any programs you’re considering. Ensure that the RN programs are accredited and offer the courses you need to successfully make the switch.

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