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LPN To RN Bridge Programs

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are trained to provide excellent patient care in a variety of settings. But some LPNs choose to take the next step in their education and enter the LPN to Registered Nurse (RN) bridge program. These programs offer licensed practical nurses an opportunity to enhance their skills and knowledge, earn a higher credential and possibly gain advancement opportunities and higher pay.

Licensed practical nurses can expect to see an increase in jobs of 22 percent from 2010 to 2020, but registered nurses may see a steeper increase of 26 percent during that same time period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). There is a significant difference in pay as well. LPNs made a mean annual wage of $42,040 nationally in May 2011, or $20.21 per hour, while registered nurses made a mean annual wage of $69,110 nationally in May 2011, or $33.23 per hour (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).

About LPN to RN bridge programs

Licensed practical nurses must complete a formal certification program or an associate degree in order to enter the profession. Some LPNs might then choose to pursue a career as a registered nurse. The bridge programs typically give some credit for the work completed during the LPN program, while some give credit for experience earned since the LPN program was completed. The LPN to RN program can help prepare students for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam, as well as offering more advanced skills and knowledge necessary to work at a higher level of patient care.

Many community colleges and universities offer LPN to RN bridge programs. Most programs are a blend of online learning and hands-on training. Typical courses in the program include microbiology, chemistry, algebra, ethical and legal issues, anatomy and physiology and more.

Because the bridge program builds upon the prerequisites and nursing courses already completed to earn the LPN, the program might take a shorter period of time to complete than starting a RN program from scratch. In addition, much of the LPN to RN program can be taken online, possibly allowing students to move through the coursework faster. Those enrolled in the program can expect to spend anywhere from 12 to 18 months to complete the work.

Registered nurses might find work in a wide variety of health care settings, such as hospitals, private medical practices, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, schools, clinics, assisted living facilities and more (mercyhurst.edu). Students might also be able to use their new certification as a stepping stone to promotions in their current workplace.

Admission requirements

Students who wish to enter the bridge program must meet or exceed certain eligibility requirements. Though these requirements vary from one school to another, the general expectations include a minimum high school or college GPA, a minimum ACT score and pre-admission testing. In addition to these general requirements, students must hold an active LPN or LVN license, and that license must remain in effect throughout the course of study.

Each program may have varying requirements for admission. To be certain of what is expected for entering students, speak to an admissions counselor before beginning the application process.

Career opportunities for registered nurses

Registered nurses might see more career opportunities than LPNs, including the option of promotions that might not be available to those with anything less than a registered nursing license. Job prospects for registered nurses are expected to be good in the coming years, especially in outpatient care centers. Technological advancements, an aging population and an emphasis on preventative care are expected to drive the growth of positions for registered nurses (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).

Though those who earn their RN through the LPN to RN bridge program can enjoy many benefits of being a registered nurse, those who hold a bachelor's degree in addition to their nursing license might see more opportunities (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). Therefore, some registered nurses might use the bridge program as a path to further education.

Specializations

Becoming a registered nurse can open the door to obtaining specializations that might not be possible for licensed practical nurses. In addition to various certifications that LPNs are eligible to receive, such as long-term care, IV therapy and pharmacology, registered nurses can boost their earning and promotion potential with more advanced specializations (napnes.org).

Registered nurses might be eligible to become advanced practice nurses. These four types of nursing -- clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthesiologists, nurse-midwives and nurse-practitioners -- are specializations that can mean higher pay and better promotion opportunities (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). No matter the specialization, registered nurses that have taken courses to earn additional certifications might be seen favorably by employers at hiring time.

A final word on LPN to RN bridge programs

For licensed practical nurses who want to advance in their field, the RN bridge program can be a good way to earn the additional skills and knowledge necessary for higher positions. Earning the RN certification can also open doors to new career possibilities, allowing nurses to branch out into employment paths that suit their goals. For those who have had a taste of nursing as an LPN and want to further dedicate their lives to making a difference for others, the RN bridge program is a great way to get started.

Sources

"Education," National Association of Practical Nurse Education and Service, 2009
"Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-2013 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics
"Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses," Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012
"LPN to RN Bridge Program," Mercyhurst University, 2013
"Registered Nurses," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-2013 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics
"Registered Nurses," Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012

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