LPN to RN: Should You Enroll In A Bridge Program?

If you’re a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), you’ve probably thought at least once about becoming a Registered Nurse (RN).

Some people become LPNs with no intention of returning to school. Others complete an LPN planning for it to be a step in the direction of further education.

It’s important to recognize that a career as a LPN is excellent on its own. They:

  • Typically make a decent salary
  • Have flexibility in terms of work schedule
  • Are always in demand

While its not necessary to continue with schooling to become a registered nurse, many LPNs are curious about what it will take in terms of:

  • Time
  • Education
  • Effort

There are many LPN to RN bridge programs out there. The first step to pursuing that path is to determine your goals.

LPN to RN bridge programs are designed to lead to either an ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) or a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing).

Deciding whether to enroll in an LPN to RN bridge program can be a difficult choice. Below, we’ll answer any questions you may have about taking this step.

Is It Easy To Go From LPN to RN?

Anyone who has done it knows nursing school is hard.

One of the most common fears that nurses have about returning to school to become an RN is how difficult the schooling may be.

Nursing education is rigorous no matter what path you take. However, there are some points that may put the difficulty into perspective for LPNs.

Getting Back Into An Academic Mindset

After working as a nurse for any amount of time, it can be hard to get back into an academic mindset.

You’ve gotten out there as a nurse and gained experience. You’ve seen the reality of the job and learned real-world nursing skills.

From an educational perspective, nursing is quite different from being on the job.

Once you’ve experienced the job firsthand, it can be hard to put yourself back into the “perfect world” scenarios presented in nursing school.

Clinical Experience Can Be Incredibly Valuable

It may be tough to separate the “real world” knowledge you’ve gained from what you’ll be learning in an LPN to RN bridge program.

However, the good news is that you don’t necessarily have to.

Clinical experience means you know what its like to be in certain situations. This means you are better able to apply what you learn in the classroom to those scenarios.

Clinicals Will Be More Manageable

Nursing experience also offers another major bonus: your program clinicals won’t be nearly as scary.

Most nurses remember how terrifying the first clinical rotation in nursing school can be. However, now you’ve been through it and worked as an LPN.

Touching patients is old news. Difficult families are a dime a dozen. Looking for equipment and supplies is the norm, even if you’re a veteran on the floor.

You’ve gotten the hang of communicating with your healthcare team, and hopefully you’ve become a pro at asking questions when you need more information to do your job.

Managing Your Schedule

You’ll need to make time in your schedule to devote to school. Even after completing a LPN program, some nurses underestimate how much time they’ll need to commit to their bridge program.

Because of this most, LPN to RN programs strongly discourage students from trying to work full-time while in school.

It’s understandable that many people may not have the option to cut back on work hours. However, if you do have the option, it’s important to take it seriously.

On top of needing hours for studying, the stressors of working in healthcare can keep you distracted and preoccupied. This is true even when you’re off your shift.

Finding the right work-school balance is essential for success in nursing school. Not allowing yourself enough time may make the process of bridging from LPN to RN significantly harder.

You’ve Already Passed the NCLEX

Most nurses probably agree that besides clinicals, the NCLEX is the scariest part of going from nursing student to nurse.

The exam is no joke. It’s intimidating and expensive. After going through nursing school, it’s the last thing standing between you and your new credentials and career.

Remember though, it’s not exactly the same exam.

The NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN have different information, so you’ll still have a lot of studying to do.

Nerves can sometimes make or break a testing attempt. However, if you’ve taken it before, you can feel a little more confident about taking it again.

Can I Bridge From LPN to RN Online?

You can absolutely bridge from LPN to RN online!

Online learning is here to stay, and nursing schools are adapting to the modern educational environment.

Options will likely be more limited if you’re looking to pursue online instead of in-person nursing education. However, there are still plenty of LPN to RN online programs to choose from.

If you’re considering pursuing an online LPN to RN bridge program, take some time to consider whether online learning fits with your schedule and learning style. Like anything, online nursing education has pros and cons. 

3 Pros of Online LPN to RN Programs

1. Flexibility

One of the most appealing aspects of online learning programs is that they allow you to study and participate at any time of day.

Some classes may incorporate scheduled online meetings. However, you will typically be given:

  • Materials
  • Assignments
  • Due dates

Then you can complete your work whenever it fits with your schedule.

2. Personalization

Without the pressure of in-person class sessions, online students can shape their learning experience. This allows students to learn without wasting time in class with a format that doesn’t work for them.

For example, if you’re a visual learner and your in-person class is a standard lecture format, it’s likely that you’ll have to spend even more time outside of class using materials that better suit you.

When learning online, you can choose the methods that work best for you without wasting time on ones that don’t.

3. Comfort

The ability to pursue a degree in the comfort of your own home is a selling point for a lot of people.

Comfortable and familiar surroundings can facilitate learning by allowing students to relax and focus on the material.

2 Cons of Online LPN to RN Programs

1. Less Accountability

Online learners who are lax about scheduling and prioritizing can often find themselves falling behind quickly. This can happen because there’s no face-to-face accountability for completing work.

It’s much easier to make excuses and put off assignments when you don’t have to explain it in person to a professor.

If you’re prone to procrastination, online learning will require a commitment to scheduling work and holding yourself accountable.

2. Less Support

While your teachers and classmates may be available online or during occasional clinicals, there’s something to be said for showing up day after day with your class.

Learning at home offers fewer opportunities to make friends. This could result in a sense of isolation from your classmates.

Without face-to-face class time to get to know each other, meeting up for clinical rotations and reaching out for help can be a bit more intimidating.

How Do Clinicals Work With Online LPN to RN Programs?

Clinical education must always be on-site. Online LPN to RN programs approach the clinical requirement in two ways:

1. Clinicals At Predetermined Sites

Schools with predetermined clinical sites typically choose sites in the same region as the school’s physical campus.

Some schools may have a regular clinical schedule where students show up at the clinical sites regularly throughout the program. This type of arrangement is generally best for students who are local but prefer to complete their coursework online.

Other schools with predetermined clinicals plan their rotations to be intensive and not concurrent with coursework. For example, a term of coursework may conclude with two weeks straight of clinical-only education.

Often, out-of-area students will choose to enroll in these programs. They simply travel to the area for their clinicals.

2. Authorized Clinicals Arranged In The Student’s Local Area

The second type of arrangement takes some planning on the student’s part. However, it’s much more flexible for online learners.

These programs usually have certain areas where students are authorized to perform clinical rotations. The authorized areas depend on state regulations.

Students are responsible for arranging their clinical experiences. If you’re interested in this type of program, it’s possible that the school will have recommendations of facilities.

However, it’s a good idea to start contacting facilities ASAP to find out whether they offer clinical education for nursing students.

Best Online LPN to RN Programs

Determining the best program will depend on a lot of factors. This includes things like your location and what kind of schedule you can accommodate.

RegisteredNursing.org has an excellent list of their top five picks for LPN to RN bridge programs. Their rankings are based on things like NCLEX pass rate and program flexibility.

The top three programs on the list are:

Allegany College of Maryland

The Allegany College of Maryland offers a LPN to ADN program. 

The lectures and coursework are fully online. 

There are supervised clinical sites authorized in:

  • Maryland
  • Delaware
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Texas

North Dakota State University

North Dakota State University offers a LPN to BSN program.

This program is mostly online. However, clinical must be completed in the Fargo or Moorhead, ND area.

Sampson Community College

Sampson Community College offers a LPN to ADN program.

This program is fully online. Clinicals are arranged in the student’s local area.

What’s The Fastest LPN to RN Program?

The length of your program will depend on whether you are pursuing an ADN or BSN degree. It will also depend on what (if any) prerequisites and other credit courses you’ve already completed.

A LPN to ADN program will take roughly one to two years to complete. A LPN to BSN program will take between two and three.

Your program length is also dependent on how the program is structured. Some schools continue through the summer, while others don’t offer summer classes.

Programs may also be full-time or part-time.

Part-time programs are generally more flexible and better suited to working students. However, it will take longer to complete.

Rather than looking for the shortest program, you’re more likely to find your best fit school by narrowing down other criteria first.

Think about factors such as:

  • Full-time vs Part-time
  • Online vs In person.

LPN to RN Curriculum Overview

LPN to RN bridge programs will vary a bit in their defined curriculum. However, they all require similar coursework to properly prepare students for passing the NCLEX-RN and starting a nursing career.

Some general curriculum requirements that will be consistent among all LPN to RN bridge programs include:

Prerequisites/General Education

Your general education requirements may include classes in:

  • English
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Math

Prerequisite and general education courses can usually be completed before entry to the program. They may even be required prior to admission.

Keep in mind that most schools have a time frame for accepting prior coursework for general education.

For example, many schools require that science prerequisites, such as biology or chemistry, be completed within the past five to seven years.

Bridge Courses

Many schools have a defined “bridge” course. Meanwhile, others determine which courses you need according to your LPN program coursework and work experience.

Bridge courses transition students from learning and working within the LPN scope to the RN scope. They cover material that is introduced in first-year RN programs.

General Nursing Education

All RN candidates must study subjects like:

  • Management
  • Health assessment
  • Pharmacology

These topics are covered in LPN programs as well. However, they are more in depth in RN programs.

Specialized Nursing Topics

Since RNs are employed in specialty departments much more often than LPNs, the RN curriculum covers specialty nursing subjects much more thoroughly.

This will include areas like:

  • Labor and delivery
  • Pediatrics
  • Emergency nursing

Clinical Education

Clinical rotations are essential for learning and developing hands-on nursing skills.

Clinicals usually rotate through different departments and facilities to give students a well-rounded clinical education.

These rotations are also incredibly helpful for showing future nurses which areas they may or may not be best suited to work in after graduation.

Important Factors In Choosing An LPN to RN Bridge Program

Your desired degree and ability to accommodate school will guide your search for a program at first. However, there are a few other factors to consider in order to choose the right school.

Location

Besides deciding where you’ll have to do clinicals, make sure to confirm what the nursing education requirements are in the state where you plan to get licensed.

Some states have different requirements for clinical hours and specialty education. This means it’s important to make sure that your school’s nursing curriculum is sufficient.

Cost

Cost of programs varies greatly. If cost may keep you from being able to attend, many schools offer financial assistance. There are also scholarships available for certain students.

Asking the financial aid departments at your prospective schools can give you an idea of what opportunities are available for financial help.

When considering the cost of a program, it may also be beneficial to look into both part-time and full-time options.

A part-time program will allow for more time to work if you need to have a paycheck while in school.

On the other hand, a full-time program will let you earn a degree and make more money as an RN sooner.

Graduation Rate

Graduation rate is an important and often-overlooked metric when researching schools.

It may not be the only factor you need to consider, but it can tell a lot about a school’s value.

Schools with particularly low graduation rates may have issues like:

  • Undesirable and unaccommodating clinical sites
  • Fewer student resources
  • Poorly trained or underqualified educators

Tips to Prepare For an LPN to RN Bridge Program

Once you’ve made the decision to bridge from LPN to RN and chosen a program, there are steps you can take to help you transition back to being a student. These steps will ensure you have the best possible experience.

Make Study Time Part of Your Routine

When you aren’t used to being in school, it can be hard to commit time to coursework.

Carving out time in your day or week before you have assignments to do can help to establish a routine.

Before your program starts, use this time to do things like:

  • Read
  • Research nursing topics
  • Brush up on current events in nursing

Tell Friends and Family About Your Plans

Support and understanding from the people around you can make all the difference in your nursing school experience.

When your friends and loved ones know that you’ll be in school, they’ll be more likely to offer help with things like kids or home obligations.

They’ll also be more understanding of your absence from social activities.

Outline Your Program From Start To Finish

When nursing school gets tough and time-consuming (and it will), you may feel like you’ve been at it forever with no end in sight.

Always remind yourself of how far you’ve come and how close you are to completion. This can keep you in a positive mindset.

It will also help you visualize and achieve your goals.

Brush Up On Topics From Earlier Schooling

You may have been able to get credit for classes completed years ago, but that doesn’t mean you’re fully prepared for further education on those topics.

Not many people retain much of what they studied in chemistry or biology for five to seven years after the class.

If your school requires further coursework in subjects that you studied awhile ago, go back and look at the main topics before diving back in.

Optimize Eating and Sleeping Habits

Nursing programs can be exhausting. This is especially true if you’re working while in school.

Making sure that you’re eating well and getting enough sleep will help keep your energy levels up. This will also ensure your brain working at its best.

Should I Enroll In a LPN to RN Bridge Program?

Just about anyone who has transitioned from LPN to RN will agree that yes, you should enroll in a LPN to RN Bridge Program!

LPN is a great career on its own. If you’re happy where you are, there’s no need to pursue an RN education.

However, if you’ve been thinking about going back to school and feel like you want to do it, an LPN to RN program will be worth it.

Why? For one, you’ll make more money.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for registered nurses was just over $75,000 in 2020. This is significantly higher than the median licensed practical nurse salary of about $48,000.

Another huge benefit to becoming an RN is that it opens opportunities for career and educational advancement.

Registered nurses are qualified to become nurse managers and higher-level supervisors. RNs can also get jobs in specialized departments like ICU and ED that typically don’t hire LPNs.

Since becoming a RN comes with a degree (either ADN or BSN), you’ll have the academic credentials to pursue further degrees if you choose to in the future.

Finally, perhaps the most important factor that makes bridge programs worth it is the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel after transitioning from LPN to RN.

You can look back with pride at all of your hard work. Best of all, you can look forward to the new opportunities you’ve gained by taking a step forward in your nursing education and career.