Is a Licensed Vocational Nurse Qualified to Be an EMT?


Licensed vocational nurses may qualify to become EMTs if they have the basic skills and clinical experience to handle medical emergencies. Most states require LVNs to complete a training program to receive their EMT-Basic certification. However, there are a few states that have shorter training programs for LVNs that have the basic skills needed to pass the EMT certification test.


  • Licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) are most often referred to as licensed practical nurses or LPNs. LPNs are trained to perform basic medical duties in hospitals, clinics and doctor's offices. Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are trained to provide basic emergency care. They are supervised by paramedics and must obtain a certification to work in this field.

    Due to some of the similarities in training and responsibilities, a few states allow LVNs to take the EMT-1/Basic exam without first completing an entire EMT-First Responder/Basic training program.


  • EMTs are trained to treat patients suffering from injuries or other health emergencies, including heart attacks, strokes and childbirth. Most EMTs are part of an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) team and take orders from ER doctors and paramedics.

    LVNs work under the supervision of doctors and registered nurses. They are trained to handle a variety of basic medical duties, including checking vital signs, maintaining medical supplies and equipment, and helping physicians conduct medical procedures. They must graduate from a nursing school or training program and obtain a license to practice in their state.

Training Requirements

  • EMTs must complete CPR and EMT training prior to taking their certification exam. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NRMET) provides national certifications in five different levels including First Responder, EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate 1985 or 1999 and EMT-Paramedic. Most states recognize the NREMT certification and include it as part of their minimum requirements. (

    LVNs are also trained in CPR and First Aid. Training programs are usually a year long and include courses in pharmacology, anatomy and practical nursing skills. Upon graduation, LVNs must pass the NCLEX-PN exam to obtain their license to practice.


  • According to a survey conducted by the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO), Maryland, New Jersey and Michigan allow LVNs and other health care professionals to challenge the EMT exam without having to complete the entire EMT training course. These states generally require health care professionals including LVNs to take a refresher course before taking the EMT certification exam. LVN's must receive approval to challenge the licensing exam. Their clinical experience and education are carefully considered by the school and their state.


  • While some of their training and tasks are similar, EMTs and LVNs work in completely different settings. EMTs are trained to handle the stress of working with trauma patients. They are also regularly exposed to life and death situations, and must know how to use equipment to transport patients. Most LVNs may not be prepared to handle these types of emergencies. They must obtain additional training, which focuses on providing emergency medical services to become certified EMTs.

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  • Photo Credit Image by, courtesy of Matti Mattila
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