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LPN/LVN Challenging California Boards of Nursing for Licensure

Method 3

Qualifications Based on Equivalent Education and/or Experience, section 2873 of the Vocational Nursing Practice Act and section 2516(b) of the California Code of Regulations.


Qualifying for the licensure examination based on prior education and experience— often referred to as “the equivalency method” requires the applicant to provide documentation of a minimum of 51 months of paid general duty inpatient bedside nursing experience in a clinical facility and completion of a 54-theory-hour pharmacology course. If the applicant has completed additional formal nursing education, that education may be substituted for some of the required bedside nursing experience.

The equivalency method permits unlicensed individuals who have had extensive inpatient bedside nursing care experience, plus a limited amount of formal education, to demonstrate that they have acquired sufficient basic nursing knowledge to be eligible for the licensure examination.

Please note: Achieving licensure via the equivalency method may limit the licensee’s ability to be hired as a licensed vocational nurse or psychiatric technician. No other state accepts licensees who have been licensed via this method.
In addition to licensure, some health care facilities within California require that their potential employees be graduates of approved nursing or psychiatric technician programs. Such facilities will not hire licensees who have achieved licensure via the equivalency method. If you have questions about licensure in another state, please contact that state’s board of nursing. If you have questions about the hiring practice of a particular health care facility in California, please contact that facility.


Pursuant to the California Code of Regulations section 2516(b), the 51 months of paid general duty inpatient bedside nursing experience must include a minimum of each of the following:

  • 48 months medical/ surgical nursing
  • 6 weeks maternity or genitourinary nursing
  • 6 weeks pediatric nursing

The majority of the paid bedside nursing experience must have occurred in an inpatient clinical facility providing the types of patient care that will prepare the applicant for the content topics covered in the licensure examination. It is required that all experience must have occurred within the past ten years, with half of the required experience occurring in the past five years. The experience must have been recent enough that the applicant is knowledgeable regarding the current types of patient care equipment, policies, and procedures.

When calculating work experience, the applicant can substitute up to a maximum of eight months of the required medical-surgical clinical experience obtained outside of the acute care setting. However, a minimum of 40 months of medical-surgical experience must have occurred in an acute care facility. Paid work experience in the following areas will be applicable for the eight months that can be substituted for acute medical-surgical experience:

  • Communicable Disease Nursing
  • Public Health Nursing
  • Occupational Health Nursing
  • Office Nursing (M.D.)
  • Psychiatric Nursing
  • Operating Room Nursing
  • Private Duty Nursing (Performed in acute care facilities only)
  • Emergency Room Nursing
  • Out-Patient Clinic
  • Post Anesthesia Recovery Nursing
  • Hemodialysis Nursing
  • Rehabilitation Nursing
  • Gerontological Nursing
  • Emergency Medical Technician Service
Please note: The following types of work experience will not be accepted in this category; home health aide, in-home care provider, in-home hospice provider, board and care provider, residential care provider, unit secretary, ward clerk, transport aide, phlebotomist, monitor technician, field paramedic. This list is not all-inclusive but offered for clarification purposes.

In the application packet, an Employment Verification form is provided. The applicant must provide a copy of this form to all employers. On the verification form, all paid bedside nursing experience must be verified by the applicant’s employer(s), indicating specific dates of employment and the number of hours worked in each area. The employment verification form must be mailed directly to the Board by the employer in an official business envelope.

The verification of experience must also include certification from the Director or Supervisor (must be a registered nurse) that the applicant has satisfactorily demonstrated the following knowledge and skills:

Basic Bedside Nursing

Infection control procedures (may be demonstrated in classroom, lab, and/or patient care settings.)

  • Ambulation techniques
  • Bed-making
  • Urinary Catheter care
  • Collection of specimens
  • Diabetic testing
  • Administration of a cleansing enema
  • Feeding patient
  • Hot and cold applications
  • Intake and Output
  • Personal hygiene and comfort measures
  • Positioning and transfer
  • Range of motion
  • Skincare
  • Vital signs
  • Communication skills, both verbal and written, including communication with patients who have psychological disorders


Techniques for strict, contact, respiratory, enteric, tuberculosis, drainage, universal, and immunosuppressed patient isolation.

Equivalent Education

Applicants who have acquired additional formal nursing education from an approved vocational nursing, practical nursing, or registered nursing program may submit official transcripts for evaluation for possible credit in lieu of paid bedside nursing experience. The transcripts must be submitted to the Board directly from the school where the courses were taken and must show theory and clinical hours completed, as well as the grades for each course. Applicants must achieve a C or better in the course in order to be given equivalency credit for the course. Credit will only be granted for those courses taken in approved vocational nursing, practical nursing, psychiatric technician, or registered nursing programs.

Required Pharmacology Course

In addition to the required paid bedside nursing experience, the applicant must also have completed a pharmacology course of at least 54 theory hours that covers the following content:

  • Knowledge of commonly used drugs and their action;
  • Computation of dosages;
  • Preparation of medications;
  • Principles of administration.

The pharmacology requirement may be satisfied by completion of 54 theory hours of pharmacology in a Board-approved vocational nursing or psychiatric technician program or 54 theory hours of pharmacology offered as part of an approved registered nursing program. In some cases, applicants attended an approved psychiatric technician, vocational nursing, or registered nursing program but did not complete the program. In order to receive credit for pharmacology content that was offered in that program, the documentation provided by the program must clearly delineate that the applicant completed 54 hours of actual pharmacology content, which included the 4 content areas described above.

Many individuals and organizations offer pharmacology courses that fit the criteria listed above. The Board does not review, approve or endorse these courses. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the pharmacology course taken includes the required content topics listed above. When the applicant submits the licensure examination application, the applicant must present documentation that specifies the number of theory hours of the course, a course description, and a list of the content presented.

A maximum total of 54 theory hours of credit may be granted for completion of any pharmacology course. If the course contains additional material that is not specific to pharmacology, credit is awarded for pharmacology content, only.