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LPN to RN Bridge Programs Online: What You Need to Know

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The progression from a licensed practical nurse (LPN) to the higher rank of a registered nurse (RN) is common in the healthcare system. One of the most used paths to move from an LPN to an RN are nursing bridge programs offered through colleges and universities. Better yet, LPN to RN bridge programs online are ideal options for those that want to advance their career without leaving their current job.

Candidates who complete LPN to RN bridge programs online, or on-campus, will need to pass The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to hold the title of RN.

Bridge programs are also available for the LPN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) transition. This program results in a bachelor’s degree and a wide range of opportunities for career advancement. If you are an LPN who is ready to upgrade to RN status, here is a comprehensive guide for LPN to RN bridge programs online. And for a bonus, there is also information on accelerated options for a BSN.

LPN vs RN vs BSN: Similarities & Differences

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) are the same professions from a layman’s perspective. Both disciplines work together in healthcare with patients.

The difference lies in the level of care each provides through their distinct responsibilities and duties. In general, registered nurses have more education than licensed practical nurses. Also, the pay ranges, qualifications, and career advancement opportunities are greater. With that in mind, both jobs are essential in the grand scheme of things, as they complement each other.

What is a LPN?

A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is an entry-level role in the nursing profession, also known as a licensed vocational nurse or LVN. In the hierarchy of nurses, LPNs are a step above certified nursing assistants (CNAs) who study for four weeks in a CNA program.

What Does a LPN Do?

Licensed practical nurses train to handle basic healthcare tasks to treat patients and make them comfortable. Some of their primary duties include:

  • Administering medications
  • Feeding, bathing, and clothing patients
  • Recording patient’s biodata and vitals such as temperature, blood pressure, and pulse rates
  • Dressing wounds
  • Reporting the status of patients to doctors and RNs
  • Following orders set by doctors and RNs

LPN Education Requirements

As a rule, students must complete a training program for one year to earn the LPN license. The program incorporates a blend of nursing, biology, pharmacology, and supervised clinical experience. Training programs like this are offered mainly by community or technical colleges. Programs are also available at some high schools and area hospitals.

After training, the next step for LPNs is the National Council Licensure Examination for practical nurses (NCLEX-PN). Candidates who pass this exam are licensed and can begin work as an LPN. With the title of LPN, a nurse can further their education and earn an associate’s degree to become an RN via bridge programs. If they wish to advance their career further, the next step is to obtain a bachelor’s degree to become an RN with a BSN.

What is an RN?

An RN (registered nurse) is a certified medical personnel trained to provide care in various medical settings. RNs can work in doctor’s offices, hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, and other medical facilities.

Registered nurses are essential in the healthcare system. They work directly with doctors, patients, and other healthcare personnel to provide skilled nursing care.

What Does an RN Do?

A registered nurse is a multi-tasking caregiver who helps with many health-related procedures and sees patients daily. The duties of an RN include:

  • Control infection
  • Manage care
  • Offer therapy
  • Maintain and promote health
  • Provide basic comfort and care for patients

RN Education Requirements

Every state in the US has requirements for granting licenses to registered nurses. However, nurses that wish to practice in multiple states can apply for the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC), which allows them to practice across different state lines.

While there are many programs for RNs in physical locations, you can also choose to go through an online RN program. Registered nurses can go through one of these three routes to become certified to practice:

  • A diploma from an accredited nursing program
  • An associate’s degree in nursing (ADN)
  • A four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

All RNs must also pass the NCLEX-RN to obtain licensure and begin practicing. Many RNs start out as LPNs and complete LPN to RN bridge programs to move forward in their careers.

Additionally, RNs can choose to focus on a specialty. The most common specialization areas for RNs are:

  • Medical-surgical nurse
  • Intensive care unit nurse
  • Emergency department nurse
  • Pediatric nurse

What is A BSN?

A nurse with a BSN is often mistaken for an RN, but there are slight differences between both designations. While a nurse with a BSN is still a registered nurse, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a degree instead of a job title or licensure. Registered nurses with a BSN are more educated and carry out more responsibilities than an RN with an associate’s degree in nursing.

In summary, you can earn a BSN as an educational degree through a four-year program, while the RN designation is a license awarded by states.

LPN vs RN

Although both roles sound similar, when you look closely, there are a lot of differences between LPNs and RNs. The major differences lie in their level of education, job duties, and salaries.

Work Environment

A nurse’s work hours, whether an LPN or an RN, depend on their employer. Nurses who work at clinics and private offices generally work office hours. Nurses employed by hospitals, long-term care facilities, or nursing homes will have shift work and will work on weekends and holidays as their patients require 24/7 care.

Registered nurses generally have a larger window for career growth and greater independence than licensed practical nurses. They have the authority to make decisions that affect diagnosis and treatment. RNs also work with little to no supervision. Occasionally RNs will supervise the jobs of LPNs and other lower-ranked healthcare personnel such as CNAs and techs.

According to the BLS, 61% of RNs work in hospitals. These hospitals could be local, state, federal or privately-owned establishments.

LPNs, on the other hand, are usually the first point of contact for patients, and they provide basic nursing care to the patients. LPNs work to make a patient as comfortable as possible. Their duties include documenting health issues and recording a patient’s vitals. LPNs also speak to patients to learn about their emotional status and relay that information back to RNs and doctors.

The BLS reports that 38% of LPNs work in residential care and nursing facilities.

LPN vs RN Salary

Registered nurses generally earn higher salaries than LPNs. This is mainly because registered nurses have completed more training and are involved in more intricate patient care procedures. The average wage for each profession depends on a nurse’s level of education, where they practice, and their level of experience.

In the Bureau of Labor Statistics report for 2020, the median salary for registered nurses is $75,330. Those working for government institutions earn as much as $84,490. On the other hand, licensed practical nurses averaged $48,880, significantly lower than the earnings of registered nurses.

LPN to RN Bridge Programs Online: An Overview

According to the BLS, nursing is one of the most highly sought-after and fastest-growing careers. However, prospective employers prefer the advanced knowledge and skills of RNs and nurses with BSNs to their counterparts who are LPNs. Generally, LPNs do not have broad options to advance in their profession. Unless they acquire more education, they cannot move into other nursing roles.

Meanwhile, it is easier for nurses with BSNs and RNs to choose a specialty and work in more interesting roles such as pediatric or cardiac nurses. Additionally, they have more career options. Whether you want a bigger paycheck, more autonomy in your career path, increased job opportunities, or even all three, more training is your best bet.

Yes, getting an RN involves a lot of time, hard work, and resources, but the benefits are worth the effort. Becoming an LPN is already half the work. Once you enroll in an LPN to RN bridge program online, you can easily take further strides to advance your career. For example, you can decide to earn an MSN, become a nurse practitioner, or even a nurse educator.

RNs are essential to the healthcare system, and there is an ever-growing need for nurses. In light of this, many accredited institutions have partnered with national and state certification bodies to develop educational plans that cater specifically to working nurses. One of such paths is the bridge program, and online bridge programs allow for greater accessibility to this education.

How to Go From LPN to RN Online?

LPN to RN bridge programs online are designed explicitly for current LPNs who wish to advance their career and education. This program allows licensed practical nurses to use their experience, along with an in-depth curriculum to earn an RN license. These nursing programs aim to ease transitioning from the LPN to RN careers and prepare candidates for the national certification exam.

Accredited Online LPN to RN Bridge Programs

Always look out for schools with nursing-specific accreditation while evaluating LPN to RN bridge programs online. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) are two of the most recognized nursing agencies. There are also other state nursing agencies for bridge programs. You should also ensure the program meets the requirements for accreditation in your state. You can do that by checking the state by state RN requirements.

How Long is the LPN to RN Bridge Program?

The time it takes to complete an LPN to RN program largely depends on what route you’re taking. LPN to ADN programs take less time than LPN to BSN programs.

Generally, LPN to RN bridge programs online take two to four years to complete.

Students can fast-track completion time by using online bridge programs with credit-by-examination options, explained in a later section.

Are Bridge Programs Supported By Federal Financial Aid?

Yes, LPN to RN bridge programs online fall under federal financial aid. However, the option is only for schools with accreditation.

Types of LPN to RN Bridge Programs Online

There are no discerning differences between LPN to RN bridge programs online and in physical locations. Most online bridge programs offer Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degrees. At the end of both kinds of programs, an LPN can sit for the NCLEX-RN exam to become an RN.

States have different RN licensure requirements, and as such, RN bridge programs differ from state to state. Each school sets their program specifications according to the licensure requirements in that respective state.

LPN to ADN Online

LPNs can earn their associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) through the ADN bridge program. This pathway grants them an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Associate of the Arts in Nursing (AAN). This degree prepares the students for the NCLEX-RN exams. It also lays the groundwork for LPNs to gain the knowledge and skill sets to advance to RNs.

Many universities and community colleges offer ADN programs, and the number of credit hours depends on the institution. LPN to ADN programs are shorter and require fewer resources on your way to becoming an RN.

LPN to BSN Online

LPN to BSN bridge programs help licensed practical nurses earn a BSN with their experience and education. This bridge program offers an accelerated route to a BSN and is faster than the more common two-step path of RN to BSN. The bridge program awards credit for the skills and knowledge of LPNs, and in the end, students earn both a BSN degree and an RN license.

What is the Best LPN to RN Bridge Program?

There are LPN to RN bridge programs wherever you look in every state across the country. However, there are certain factors students have to consider before applying for an online bridge program.

What Should I Look For?

When searching for a program to complete your LPN to RN, check the qualifications of the school. The least you should accept is a school that offers anAssociate of Science In Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. These are the most in-demand qualifications for nurses. They will prepare you for a successful career as an RN.

Accreditation

Another critical factor in your search for an institution is accreditation. Whether you’re going for an online LPN to RN bridge program or one in a physical location, you should ensure that the school is accredited.

The two bodies responsible for accreditation are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). You should only attend a school with at least one of these two accreditations to be a competitive job candidate.

Related Resource: Online Nursing Schools with ACEN Accreditation: The Top 60

Why Is Accreditation Important?

  • Accreditation provides the necessary requirements to sit for NCLEX certification exams.
  • Accreditation is a seal of approval that assures the school offers effective education.
  • Schools with accreditation can offer financial aid.

State Licensure

Licensing requirements for registered nurses differ depending on the state. Notwithstanding, all students must pass the NCLEX-RN exams to become registered nurses.

Students will have to check the specific requirements for the state they wish to work in for individual state licensure requirements. All requirements are necessary for students to receive their nursing license irrespective of whether it’s a BSN, RN, or LPN.

Related Resource: Nurse Licensure Compact State Guide

Available Programs

Achieve Test Prep offers an excellent credit by exam, which will help you accelerate your online LPN to RN bridge program. The program incorporates instructor-led classes and provides the materials needed to learn and prepare for exams. Through credit by exams, students can finish the program in up to half the time and save money in the process. Additionally, the program meets all the requirements as it is accredited and offers state licensure for eligible students.

Advantages of LPN to RN Bridge Programs Online

There are many benefits of the LPN to RN bridge program, especially in terms of saving time and money. Programs that provide test-out credits can save you even more time and money.

Saving Money

With previous experience under your belt as an LPN, a test-out option is an inexpensive way to gain RN status. This is because you pay for only the courses that are vital for certification. Compared to full-term college tuition, a test-out program is an affordable route.

If you’re looking to embark on a BSN online bridge program, view our list of the cheapest RN to BSN online degrees.

Saving Time

With bridge programs that offer test-out options, you have a quicker route to becoming an RN or even earning your BSN. If you choose to go through traditional nursing programs, you’ll spend anywhere between three to four years in school. Meanwhile, test-out options allow you to skip general education classes that you already have mastered.

More Efficient

Bridge programs come with the added opportunity for online learning. An online LPN to RN bridge program involves more flexibility of your schedule, no commute, and free access to coursework materials.

Added Opportunity to Continue Working

While studying through an LPN to RN online bridge program, you do not have to sacrifice your paycheck for school. Online bridge programs allow you to earn an income and further your education simultaneously.

LPN To RN Credit-By-Examination Programs

The Credit By Examination (CBE) program is a system that helps you to bypass specific steps in the educational system that you may have learned already. So, instead of attending regular classes that may incur costs for books, materials, and tuition, you only have to participate in individual review sessions and pass a proficiency exam. This test-out option uses your experience and lets you exempt coursework that you have already mastered.

Test-out options for nursing bridge programs include:

  • LPN to RN
  • LPN to BSN
  • Paramedic to BSN
  • Paramedic to RN

How to Complete A Bridge Program With Test-Out Options

  1. Enroll in an accredited nursing program with institutions that offer credit-by-exam options for general education courses.
  2. Determine what credits you need to earn. Alternative education options like Achieve Test Prep partner with accredited schools to evaluate and award transfer credits and plan coursework to meet the degree requirements.
  3. Complete accelerated test preparation courses to prepare for the credit-by-examination program.
  4. Pass approved credit-by-examination topics to earn general education credits.
  5. Complete the required nursing coursework and participate in clinical externships.
  6. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam, graduate with a degree and become an RN.

RN vs BSN

After completing an LPN to RN program, students must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to receive an RN license. But if you aim to advance your career and increase your potential earnings, you can go one step further to obtain a BSN.

Although earning a BSN does not guarantee a change in job titles, the degree has clear benefits. First, the training a BSN acquires helps position you to perform your role better. Also, this degree places you at a vantage point to advance in your career. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) holds that nurses with a BSN tend to deliver better care, making them highly valued in the medical sector.

Aiming for a BSN after getting your RN license is a great career move and can improve your status significantly. However, it requires additional time and money. Below are a few good reasons why you should pursue a BSN.

Higher Pay

Simply put, BSNs have a higher earning power than regular RNs and LPNs. According to Payscale, the annual base salary for BSNs is $88,000. RNs with BSNs who work as directors can earn as much as $98,262. These salaries are above the annual base salary for RNs who earn $75,330.

Expanded Job Opportunities

The high demand for BSNs, and nurses with higher skill levels means that an RN with a BSN generally has a greater chance of landing higher-paying jobs. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) data, 76% of BSNs graduated with a job offer in 2021. Also, BSNs have a 93% job placement rate 4-6 months after graduation.

Preparedness

BSNs generally have more training than regular RNs, and they are prepared to handle patients more effectively. There is an average reduction of 2.12 deaths for every 1,000 patients for every 10% increase in BSNs within the staff. Also, hospitals with more BSNs had lower post-surgery complication rates.

Increased Chances For Leadership Roles

BSNs can study further and choose a specialty, enabling them to become nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners command higher pay and can step into leadership roles within healthcare systems.

Related Resource: How to Become a Nurse Practitioner Using Online Education

It is Becoming The Expected Degree

Because of the impressive results of BSNs in the health sector, New York signed a law mandating all licensed nurses to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing within the first ten years after licensure.

Start an LPN to RN Online Today!

The conclusion is that the nursing profession is a very in-demand profession. Aside from the satisfaction of saving lives, there are opportunities for growth in human learning and relationships.

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