Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN/LPN) license

Licensed Vocational Nurse vs Sterile Processing Technician

Licensed Vocational Nurse vs Sterile Processing Technician

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In the world of healthcare, there are many different career paths to choose from. Two popular options for those interested in working in the medical field are becoming a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) or a sterile processing technician. While both of these careers are rewarding and offer opportunities for growth and advancement, they have different responsibilities and requirements. In this blog post, we will explore the key differences between a licensed vocational nurse and a sterile processing technician, including their job descriptions, education and training requirements, and career outlooks.

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The healthcare industry is constantly growing, and there is a high demand for skilled professionals. If you are considering a career in healthcare, becoming a licensed vocational nurse or a sterile processing technician could be a great choice. These careers offer stable employment, competitive salaries, and the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of others. However, it is important to understand the differences between these two roles before making a decision.

What is a Licensed Vocational Nurse and Sterile Processing Technician?

Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN): A licensed vocational nurse, also known as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in some states, is a healthcare professional who provides basic nursing care under the supervision of registered nurses or physicians. LVNs work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics. They are responsible for monitoring patients' vital signs, administering medication, assisting with activities of daily living, and providing emotional support to patients and their families.

Sterile Processing Technician: A sterile processing technician, also known as a central service technician or surgical instrument technician, is responsible for cleaning, sterilizing, and organizing surgical instruments and equipment. They play a crucial role in preventing infections and ensuring the safety of patients by following strict sterilization protocols. Sterile processing technicians work in hospitals, surgical centers, and other healthcare facilities.

Difference between a Licensed Vocational Nurse and Sterile Processing Technician

While both licensed vocational nurses and sterile processing technicians work in the healthcare industry, there are several key differences between these two roles. Here are some of the main distinctions:

Scope of Practice: Licensed vocational nurses have a broader scope of practice compared to sterile processing technicians. LVNs are involved in direct patient care, providing hands-on assistance and administering medication. On the other hand, sterile processing technicians focus on the sterilization and organization of surgical instruments and equipment.

Patient Interaction: Licensed vocational nurses have regular direct contact with patients and their families. They provide emotional support, answer questions, and assist with activities of daily living. In contrast, sterile processing technicians have limited patient interaction and primarily work behind the scenes to ensure the safety and sterility of surgical instruments.

Responsibilities: Licensed vocational nurses are responsible for a wide range of tasks, including administering medication, monitoring patients' conditions, dressing wounds, and assisting with medical procedures. Sterile processing technicians, on the other hand, focus on the cleaning, sterilization, and maintenance of surgical instruments, as well as maintaining inventory and tracking equipment.

Supervision: Licensed vocational nurses work under the supervision of registered nurses or physicians. They collaborate closely with other members of the healthcare team to provide comprehensive care to patients. Sterile processing technicians also work as part of a team but may have less direct supervision, depending on the facility and their level of experience.

Licensed Vocational Nurse vs Sterile Processing Technician: Job Description

Licensed Vocational Nurse: The job description of a licensed vocational nurse includes:

  • Administering medication and injections
  • Monitoring patients' vital signs
  • Assisting with activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing
  • Dressing wounds and changing bandages
  • Collecting samples for laboratory testing
  • Assisting with medical procedures, such as catheter insertion or wound care
  • Providing emotional support to patients and their families
  • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals to develop and implement care plans

Sterile Processing Technician: The job description of a sterile processing technician includes:

  • Cleaning and decontaminating surgical instruments and equipment
  • Operating sterilization equipment, such as autoclaves
  • Assembling and organizing surgical instrument trays
  • Inspecting instruments for damage or defects
  • Maintaining inventory of sterile supplies and ordering replacements as needed
  • Tracking and recording equipment usage
  • Adhering to strict infection control protocols
  • Collaborating with surgical and nursing staff to ensure the availability of sterile instruments for procedures

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Licensed Vocational Nurse vs Sterile Processing Technician: Education and Training

Licensed Vocational Nurse: To become a licensed vocational nurse, individuals must complete a state-approved nursing program, which typically takes about one year. These programs are offered by community colleges, vocational schools, and some hospitals. After completing the program, graduates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) to become licensed. In addition to formal education, LVNs must have strong communication skills, compassion, and the ability to work well under pressure.

Sterile Processing Technician: The educational requirements for sterile processing technicians vary by state and employer. Some employers may require a high school diploma or equivalent, while others may prefer candidates with a certificate or associate's degree in sterile processing or a related field. These programs typically take six months to one year to complete and include coursework in infection control, sterilization techniques, and medical terminology. On-the-job training is also common for sterile processing technicians.

Licensed Vocational Nurse vs Sterile Processing Technician: Career Outlook and Salary

Licensed Vocational Nurse: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of licensed vocational nurses is projected to grow 9% from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The demand for healthcare services is expected to increase as the population ages, leading to a greater need for licensed vocational nurses in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings. As of May 2020, the median annual wage for licensed vocational nurses was $48,820.

Sterile Processing Technician: The employment of sterile processing technicians is also expected to grow, although at a slightly slower rate than licensed vocational nurses. The increasing number of surgeries and procedures being performed in healthcare facilities contributes to the demand for these professionals. As of May 2020, the median annual wage for sterile processing technicians was $36,240.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a licensed vocational nurse or a sterile processing technician can be a fulfilling career choice for those interested in working in the healthcare industry. Both roles offer stable employment, competitive salaries, and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. The decision between these two careers ultimately depends on your interests, strengths, and career goals. Consider your preferences for direct patient care versus behind-the-scenes work, as well as your educational and training requirements. By exploring the similarities and differences between licensed vocational nurses and sterile processing technicians, you can make an informed decision about which path is right for you.

Dreambound offers programs in multiple locations. For in-depth information on the intricacies of these two vocations, their prerequisites, and steps to join, explore the following blogs:

Fel Gonzaga
Written by
Fel Gonzaga

Fel is a student support representative who guides enrollees to the right program and answers their queries. She's committed to helping students and takes pride in her work. In her free time, she enjoys sightseeing and hanging out with loved ones.

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