LVN Career Path in California

Healthcare is changing, in California and elsewhere, and with it, the role of the Licensed Vocational Nurse. Today’s hospital stays are shorter than in the past, and post-crisis care is often handled by nursing homes. Nursing homes often serve populations that are sicker and more fragile than in the past, but less restrictive settings like home health and assisted living have also been on the rise. So, too, have innovative care delivery systems that encompass the wider community.

LVNs may enter the field with only a certificate (LVN programs in California). There has been a trend away from using vocational nurses in hospital acute care, though they maintain some presence there. Not only are LVNs vital, they are needed in greater numbers than in the past.

California Licensed Vocational Nurses

LVNs occupy important roles in skilled nursing facilities. They carry out technical duties and also supervise basic care provided by nursing assistants. Some witness – and are a part of – exciting changes. Nursing homes are developing, though at different paces. Not only do they emphasize rehabilitation; many strive to be homelike.

There are plenty out there hiring – and many perspectives on which ones a person wants to be a part of. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services issues star ratings based on objective criteria, including safety inspections, client surveys, and a select set of quality indicators.

NRC Health recognizes facilities that are highly recommended by those in the know. There are two categories: workplace/ associate recommendation and client recommendation. The following skilled nursing facilities were recognized in 2017:

  • Brookfield Healthcare Center in Downey
  • Camarillo Healthcare Center in Camarillo
  • Citrus Hills in Orange
  • Glenwood Care Center in Oxnard
  • Shoreline Healthcare Center in Long Beach
  • Whittier Hills Health Care Center

Assisted living represents an alternative, from the standpoint of a practical nurse as well as the standpoint of the many people who are feeling the effects of illness and aging. LVNs may advance far in the field of assisted living and memory care. Assisted living residences are for those who are no longer fully independent but don’t require nursing home level of care while memory care is for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Both may be offered as part of continuing care retirement communities which also offer higher levels of care (skilled nursing) and lower levels (independent living).

2018 finds a number of California facilities courting skilled LVNs. Some have titles like wellness director, coordinator, or director of staff development.

The duties that an LVN may carry out are many and varied: making rounds, making sure that resident needs are being met, modifying care plans, training medication aides, providing staff development, supervising resident assistants, interviewing staff, and providing staff development.

NRC Health also collects employee and customer satisfaction data for these facilities. The following assisted living facilities were recognized in the employer category in 2017:

  • Emerald Court in Anaheim
  • Heritage Greens in Greensboro
  • Lexington Assisted Living in Ventura
  • Linda Valley Assisted Living in Loma Linda
  • Sea Cliff Healthcare Center – Assisted Living in Huntington Beach
  • Wildwood Canyon Villa in Yucaipa
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AHCA/ NCAL Quality Improvement

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) has a quality improvement and recognition program with three progressive levels.

In 2017, one California nursing home made it all the way to gold: Edgemoor DP SNF. It was one of just three in the nation awarded that year. Edgemoor DP SNF is a safety net skilled nursing facility that cares for residents whose needs are too intensive for other nursing homes. Many have sustained brain injuries which can make for behavioral challenges in addition to cognitive and physical needs. The facility serves adults of all ages – the average is just 55 years. There is a high population of wheelchair residents. Like many modern facilities, Edgmoor has implemented consistent caregiver-resident relationships. Residents live in private rooms organized into neighborhoods and have access to things like wi-fi that make their lives easier.

The following AHCA/NCAL facilities were recognized at the silver level:

  • ACC Care Center in Sacramento
  • Arbor Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Lodi
  • Carmel Mountain Rehab & Healthcare Center in San Diego
  • Prestige Assisted Living at Lancaster
  • Sunrise at Canyon Rest in Riverside
  • Sunrise of Fair Oaks
  • Sunrise of Yorba Linda
  • The Carlisle in San Francisco
  • Vista Pacifica Center in Riverside

Health Systems

Many care facilities are operated by large systems and consequently can provide generous benefit packages to their full-time employees. One doesn’t have to be employed in a hospital to enjoy tuition assistance or child care benefits or even buy into a group pet insurance policy. Nor does one have to be part of a hospital to receive beyond-the-basics orientation and training opportunities.

Health systems have diverse needs. One recent posting was for a discharge planner who would work under an RN to arrange placement in places like nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, or group homes.

Clinic, Office, and Mental Health Positions

LVNs are also hired into clinic and office positions. These can be quite varied, encompassing primary care and specialty for different populations.

Customers are seeking care in new ways. A Target/ Kaiser Permanente partnership, for example, has made healthcare more convenient for many in Southern California (https://www.sbsun.com/2017/09/14/kaiser-permanente-target-to-roll-out-31-store-based-clinics-across-southern-california/). The San Bernardino Sun reported that staff included both advanced practice nurses and LVNs. Customers could seek care for minor illnesses, monitor status of chronic conditions, and receive services such as flu shots.

Career Outlook and Average LVN Salary in California

California licensed vocational nurses earned an average of $25.32 an hour in 2016 ($52,670 for a year of full-time work).

California vocational nursing has been projected to see 21% occupational growth between 2014 and 2024.

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