LPN to RN Programs for Nursing
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LPNs operate in task-oriented, supervised positions. Those who have accumulated several years of experience often want to advance their careers and take on greater responsibilities. LPN to RN bridge programs allow practical nurses to do just that. Whether working towards an associate or bachelor’s degree, LPN to RN programs prepare practical nurses to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and work autonomously as registered nurses. This guide provides an in-depth review of LPN to RN program options for those seeking a wider scope of practice, higher salary potential, and greater job opportunities.

Educational Pathways to Becoming an RN

Nursing is a unique profession as it has several educational pathways that lead to entry-level licensure as a registered nurse. Licensed practical nurses that want to move into an RN role may earn an Associate of Science in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, both the degrees are designed to teach students the core competencies required to pass the NCLEX-RN licensure exam and move into entry-level nursing positions.

The comparison grid below outlines the differences between the ADN and BSN, which can help prospective nursing students decide which academic path is right for them.

  ADN BSN
Where programs are found Community Colleges; Technical Institutes/Vocational Schools Four-Year Universities
Required credit hours Approximately 72 Approximately 120
Length of program Two to three years Four to five years
Curriculum Designed to prepare graduates for entry-level staff positions in a relatively short amount of time. Curriculum focuses on basic nursing competencies, with little or no focus on research, management/leadership, theories, or humanities-based studies. Includes similar core coursework to ADN programs, with more in-depth exploration of physical and social science, humanities, and nursing research. Additional classes study the broader implications of nursing practice in social, cultural, and economic contexts, and how nursing is positioned within the overall health care system.
Nursing education Begins during the first year of ADN program Nursing study begins in the third year of BSN programs, after foundational courses are been completed
Advantages
  • Greater scheduling flexibility
  • Shorter path to entry-level RN opportunities
  • More affordable
  • More comprehensive
  • Graduates have stronger professional skills and greater levels of competency in research, communication and leadership
  • Can serve as the foundation to graduate-level degrees and advanced nursing practice careers
Things to consider
  • Less earning power
  • Industry is slowly adopting the BSN as the minimum requirement for RN employment
  • Higher earning potential
  • Direct path to graduate degrees
  • More expensive than ADN
  • Longer time to complete than ADN
NCLEX pass rates (2015) 83.30% 88.04%

ADN vs. BSN Salary and Employment

For most, the leading factor in the decision to move from an LPN to RN position is the pay potential. Nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses earn approximately 56 percent more on a yearly basis than licensed practical nurses. Additionally, in the nursing industry, academic preparation directly correlates to earning power. The higher the degree, the better the pay. MedScape’s 2015 Nurse Salary Report found that registered nurses with an associate degree earn $73,000 per year, while those with a bachelor’s earn $79,000.

While an ADN and BSN both lead to a job as an RN, the BSN can qualify nurses for more diverse roles and work settings, another reason some students opt for the bachelor’s degree path. Graduates of a baccalaureate program will find more employment opportunities since they’ll be well qualified to work in critical care, outpatient care, public health, and mental health and also in high demand settings such as private homes, outpatient centers, and clinics.

A Closer Look at LPN to RN Programs

Despite the differences, LPN to ADN and LPN to BSN programs prepare practical nurses to make the transition from LPN to RN. The curricula of both programs are designed to meet the nursing school’s individual state board of nursing requirements and qualify students to sit for the NCLEX-RN licensure examination. Learn more about the prerequisites, application process, and curriculum of LPN to RN programs.

Prerequisites

Prior to their acceptance into a nursing program of study, prospective students must complete the perquisite coursework. These classes are generally preparatory in nature and fall into general education subjects. Prospective students should be aware that many schools place both time limits and minimum grade or GPA requirements on prerequisite coursework. For example, prerequisite courses may need to be completed within the past five years with a grade of “C” or better to be accepted. Prerequisite coursework generally covers the following subject areas:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Psychology
Applying to a Program

Enrollment in LPN to RN programs—regardless of degree granted—is highly selective. Prospective students must meet the individual program’s criteria, submitting all applications and documentation by stated deadlines. Admission requirements vary from school to school. However, most universities require students to meet the basic admission requirements for the overall university, as well as individual requirements for the nursing school.

These requirements often include meeting a minimum GPA, passing scores on an entrance examination, and completing all general education prerequisites. In addition, LPN to RN students may be asked to submit the following for admission.

  • Active and valid LPN license
  • Proof of professional experience (1 to 3+ years)
  • Clinical experience and work evaluation forms
  • Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS), if applicable
  • Official transcripts from state-approved LPN program
The LPN to RN Curriculum

Curricula are designed to build upon the LPN’s understanding of the professional nursing practice, including its theories, science, and patient care techniques. Blending classroom instruction and clinical experiences, these programs take a systematic approach to preparing graduates for entry-level registered nursing positions. Although specific coursework varies by individual programs, LPN to RN courses are influenced by state nursing standards. The table below outlines an example list of courses commonly found in LPN to RN programs.

Course Description
Human Anatomy and Physiology Coursework in anatomy and physiology is designed to provide nursing students with an understanding of the function and structure of the body’s system. The topics of study, muscular; respiratory; skeletal; circulatory; and nervous systems, serve as the foundation for continued nursing practice study.
Principles of Pharmacology This course covers the core concepts of pharmacology, including the study of pharmacological classifications, medication side effects, and the therapeutic use, and the responsibilities of the nurse administering medications to patients.
Trends in Nursing A transitional course, this class emphasizes the role of the registered nurse, exploring the legal, ethical, cultural, and leadership concepts and principles underlying the profession. Students about and how to critically analyze modern trends and issues in contemporary nursing.
Adult Nursing and Assessment In this class, students develop advanced medical-surgical nursing skills, working with patients who have chronic health care needs. Emphasis is on physical examination and assessment techniques, using specialized instruments, and understanding patient needs from a physiologic and psychosocial standpoint.
Fundamentals of Nursing This course introduces students to the fundamental principles and skills required of the registered nurse, providing students with a framework to approach patient care for patients of all ages. Within this framework, students learn a variety of skills, from wound care to IV therapy, mobility to personal hygiene.
Medical-Surgical Nursing In this class, students focus on developing clinical judgment skills, learning how to form a plan of care for a range of specific health conditions. Students become familiar with rehabilitative, preventive and therapeutic treatments, and learn how to take the patient’s emotional, cultural, and religious beliefs into account, and how to work with other medical team members to provide effective care.
How Clinical Hours Work

All LPN to RN students must complete a clinical training experience or practicum. Clinical experiences provide students an opportunity to develop progressive knowledge, skills, and competencies required to practice as a registered nurse. Each individual school of nursing establishes their own clinical training requirements. However, most LPN to RN programs include multiple clinical experiences across different healthcare settings.

Under faculty supervision, students develop critical thinking skills, learn about healthcare delivery, best practices in patient communication, and current trends in modern nursing practice. Clinical hours vary, but typically span 8 to 12 hours per session. They are conducted in environments such as emergency rooms, critical care units, community health care agencies, and rehabilitation facilities. Commonly, students rotate through clinical experiences in the following areas:

  • Health Assessment
  • Pediatric
  • Mental Health
  • Community Health
  • Medical-Surgical
  • Gerontology
  • Acute Care

Online LPN to RN Programs

For working professionals, attending a campus-based nursing program isn’t always feasible. Increasingly, nursing schools have recognized the need to alter and complement their curriculum to offer students flexible online programs, particularly to those seeking to further their education. Online learning works well in the nursing space, as students can study nursing theory and other foundational topics through online courses while simultaneously developing clinical techniques and experiences at their current place of work. Below is an overview of core components in LPN to RN online programs.

Online learning experience

Online courses are instructor-led and use an online learning management system, such as Blackboard or Canvas to facilitate educational activities. Through required reading, multimedia, discussion boards, quizzes, and clinical logs, nursing students develop clinical reasoning skills and broad understanding of critical nursing topics such as healthcare policy, the role of the registered nurse, medical terminology, and patient assessment.

Virtual labs

Virtual labs are used to foster the student’s growth as a clinician, helping them build clinical reasoning skills and confidence in their nursing abilities. Virtual laboratories use at-home exercises and online simulations, animations and videos. Through these simulations, nursing students experience real world, nursing scenarios that allow them to work with virtual patients in a realistic environment.

Local clinical experiences

Online students may have a level of flexibility when it comes to completing their clinical experience. Some LPN to RN programs may allow students to work with a supervising faculty member to self-schedule their clinical placement and schedule. Other online programs may have preceptor and clinical facility agreements with local area healthcare providers.

NCLEX and licensing prep

Students may attend an out-of-state online program of nursing and remain eligible to take the NCLEX-RN in any state in the country. However, students should check with their state board of nursing to ensure the school is state-approved and passing the NCLEX will result in an acceptable nursing license in their state of employment.

State-based license

Permanent residents of another state, must have an active LPN license in the state where they plan to do their clinical experiences. They typically do not have to have a nursing license in the state where the school is located.

State-approved clinical training

Clinical experiences are regulated and not every state board of nursing allows for or approves out-of-state clinical experiences. Online LPN to RN students should ensure their nursing school has an approved clinical experience in the state where they reside.

Thinking Ahead

Nursing is a dynamic profession, one that allows nurses to advance from bedside care into advanced practice nursing roles. Goals may range from pursuing leadership positions in hospital administration or serving as an independent nursing practitioner. Either way, each route to advanced employment opportunities starts with a graduate degree. The type of education required (e.g. Master of Science in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice) is determined by the specialty field of nursing. Below are several common career choices for registered nurses who want to climb the career ladder.

Additional career or advanced education opportunities for registered nurses include: