Comparison - Role of Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) and Psychiatric Technician (PT)

Licensed Vocational Nurse
The title “nurse” can refer to individuals with varying degrees of education and licensure.  Job titles to which individuals may refer to themselves as “nurses” include the following:  Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) / Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN) of Nurse Practitioner (NP).  LVN’s and LPN’s have the same training, licensure and scope of practice.  The title Licensed Vocational Nurse is used only in California and Texas, while the title Licensed Practical Nurse is used throughout the rest of the United States.  The job title used in Australia and New Zealand is Enrolled Nurse, while in the United Kingdom the job title is State Enrolled Nurse.  In the United States, it is compulsory for a prospective LVN/LPN to have completed high school.  Internationally, the scope of practice and title of the LVN/LPN may vary, depending upon country-specific criteria.

LVN’s/LPN’s work in hospitals, clinics (pediatric, geriatric, women’s health, psychiatric) as well as skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, correctional facilities and dental offices.  LVN’s/LPN’s may perform specific nursing skills and procedures under the supervision of an RN, NP, Physician Assistant (PA), Physician (MD), or Dentist (DDS).  They also may work collaboratively with RN’s, and are licensed to delegate to CNA’s or other non-licensed assistants. The LVN/LPN scope of practice includes performance and documentation of the following duties: basic patient care; vital signs; data collection on all body systems; carrying out wound care orders; preparing patients for diagnostic testing, including collection of urine, sputum, and fecal specimens; insertion and care of urinary catheters; insertion and care of naso-gastric tubes; and administration of medications, except intravenous medication (IV).  In order to draw blood, or to initiate or administer IV medications, LVN’s/LPN’s must pass an additional post-licensure IV certification course.  Even with successful passage of an IV certification course, LVN’s/LPN’s may not administer IV push medications.  IV push medications are under the scope of practice of the RN. 

Psychiatric Technician
Psychiatric Technicians (PT’s) are trained and licensed to work in psychiatric facilities under the supervision of RN’s or physicians.  In preparation for licensure, there is some didactic coursework in common for PT’s and LVN’s/LPN’s.  These courses include Anatomy and Physiology, Nursing Fundamentals, Nutrition and Pharmacology.  However, because their client base specifically includes individuals with developmental disabilities or those with psychiatric diagnoses such as (but not limited to) schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, or depression, PT’s require additional study in the area of psychotropic medications.  Also, their clinical training is focused solely in psychiatric facilities.

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