What You Need to Know About Choosing an LPN-to-RN Bridge Program
Whether you’ve been working as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) for decades or have just started to get established in the role, you know one thing: You’re ready to make a change. As much as you love some of your patients and coworkers, the prospect of taking on new nursing challenges while expanding your overall earning potential has become increasingly appealing.
That said, you don’t want to be stuck starting over at square one when it comes to education. After all, many of the fundamental skills you learned in nursing school and apply every day in your current role will still be useful as a registered nurse. An LPN-to-RN bridge program can help solve this concern—and in this article we’ll help lay out the most important information to consider before picking a program.
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What is an LPN-to-RN bridge program?
Given the mess of “alphabet soup” that comes with nursing credentials and programs, you’re probably wondering where exactly an LPN-to-RN bridge fits into the big picture. While commonly referred to as a specific program, this nursing school option is really just another path into an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) program—you’re still learning the same things as other RNs.
This streamlined path is reserved for students with an unencumbered practical nursing license. By taking this route, LPNs have the ability to cut down on their overall time to completion by receiving credit for previous nursing training. For example, Rasmussen College LPN-to-RN bridge students can complete their program is as few as 12 to 18 months.1
What should I consider when evaluating an LPN-to-RN bridge program?
Before you fire up and start applying to programs, you’d be wise to conduct a little research first. Give some thought to the following areas.
1. Is the registered nursing program accredited?
While your first thoughts might be more focused on the cost and location of a program, the accreditation status of a nursing program is an important, yet often overlooked, factor. The accreditation of a nursing program depends on it meeting certain standards of educational quality. Accredited programs are continually reviewed to ensure those standards are being upheld.
But accreditation isn’t just a gauge of a program’s overall educational quality—it can also factor into your ability to obtain state licensure. Before you enroll in a program, look into your state’s registered nursing licensure requirements. Many require applicants to complete a program accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) in order to sit for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam.
2. Do I have everything needed for admission?
If you think back to your last go-around in nursing school, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that you’ll need to get a few things in order before gaining admission to a program. Requirements will vary by program; for example, you may need to earn a passing score on an entrance exam like the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS). This test is an assessment of your reading, mathematics, science and English proficiency. If you’re concerned, our article “Don’t Fear the TEAS Test: 5 Common Questions Answered” may help.
Additionally, students will likely need to pass a background check, be up to date on their immunizations and obtain transcripts of their previous nursing coursework. Fortunately, many of these requirements should be relatively simple to meet if you’re already working as an LPN.
3. Can I afford this program?
It’s true becoming a registered nurse can improve your earning potential long-term—the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports registered nurses earned a 2018 median annual salary of $71,730 compared to $46,240 for LPNs—but you’ll still want to consider your more immediate financial plans.2
With in-person lab work and clinical rotations playing a major part in most ADN program curriculum, you’ll likely have to scale back your work hours or put employment on hold for the duration of your education—so do your best to plan ahead. Take the time to seek out scholarship opportunities and take the time to ask your current employer about employee tuition reimbursement programs as every little bit will help.
4. What support will be available to me?
If it’s been a while since your last experience in a college classroom, you might be feeling a little apprehensive about getting back into the routine. Academic and technical support systems can help make this transition go as smoothly as possible—so don’t be afraid to ask around and learn more about what’s available.
Rasmussen College, for example, offers a variety of support services to help facilitate student learning, including a dedicated team of library and learning services professionals, academic advisors, career services advisors and student tutors. That’s not to mention a dedicated personal support center for whenever you may need assistance with technical troubles. These professionals can assist you with anything from proper APA formatting for a paper to finding local job opportunities—so don’t overlook them when weighing programs.
5. Will campus locations work for your schedule?
As we mentioned before, you’re likely to be spending a fair amount of time on campus as you complete your nursing coursework—and that means travel time could also be a factor. Make the trip to the campuses you’re considering and make an honest assessment of whether that commute can reasonably be done a regular basis.
While it’s true this is a relatively small factor in the grand scheme of things, a long commute can make your nursing school experience more difficult. It’s easy to overlook this factor when evaluating your options.
6. Who will be teaching me?
As an LPN, this isn’t your first rodeo when it comes to working with patients—and you’ve maybe seen firsthand how “by the book” nursing knowledge can begin to falter in real-world situations. That’s a big part of why it helps to learn from instructors who have plenty of nursing experience. They know how to apply what you’re learning to practical situations and can draw from their experience to give examples of why something should be done.
Your instructors can also be an excellent asset for when the time comes to find a registered nursing job—they have plenty of connections and may be willing to lend you a hand in getting established.
Start your search for an LPN-to-RN bridge program
As you can see, there’s a lot you’ll want to consider when making the jump from LPN to RN—but don’t let it hold you back. Becoming a registered nurse is an appealing move that can potentially open a lot of doors in your healthcare career. Take some time to evaluate the information above so you can make an informed decision. When you’re ready to start your search, check out the Rasmussen College Professional Nursing program page for more details.
1Completion time is dependent on transfer credits accepted and the number of courses completed each term.
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed August, 2019] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
The Rasmussen College Professional Nursing Associate’s degree program in Fort Myers, Tampa/Brandon, New Port Richey/West Pasco, Ocala (with an off-campus instructional site in Orlando), Florida; Kansas City/Overland Park (with an off-campus instructional site in Topeka), Kansas; Bloomington, Mankato, Moorhead and St. Cloud, Minnesota; and Green Bay and Wausau, Wisconsin, is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, 3390 Peachtree Road NE, Suite 1400, Atlanta, GA 30326, 404-975-5000 http://acenursing.us/accreditedprograms/programSearch.htm
Effective December 22, 2017, the Professional Nursing Associate's degree program at Rasmussen College - Blaine is a Candidate for initial accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. This Candidacy status expires in December 2019.
Candidate status does not guarantee that a program will achieve initial accreditation. Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, 3390 Peachtree Road NE, Suite 1400, Atlanta, GA 30326, 404-975-5000 http://www.acenursing.us/candidates/candidacy.asp