Everything You Need to Know About LPN Bridge Programs
One of the best things about pursuing a career in nursing is that you will always have plenty of ways to move into more advanced roles should you so desire. If you are a Licensed Practical Nurse, or LPN, for example, moving up to become a registered nurse (RN) might not be quite as difficult as you think. Rather than starting from scratch with your education, you may be able to apply what you've learned as an LPN and progress in your training more quickly through an LPN bridge program. Learn more about this option below.
LPN Bridge Programs: The Basics
The easiest way to understand what LPN bridge programs are is by considering the term "bridge." In this context, it refers to training that helps to bridge the gap in knowledge between LPN and RN. When you undergo LPN training, you learn many nursing fundamentals. Should you decide to progress into registered nursing, a bridge program may allow you to apply some of what you have learned toward your next degree - which allows you to complete your training more quickly. As an added bonus, since the training is typically faster, the cost is often lower.
Popular Types of LPN Bridge Programs
Several types of LPN bridge programs are available, and they are generally offered by community colleges and vocational training schools, but they are also often offered by nursing schools within major colleges and universities. The type of bridge program that's right for you depends on your current credentials and long-term career goals. These programs often allow you to avoid rehashing information that you went over during your previous training, so you spend time only to learn new things.
Some of the most popular bridge programs for LPNs include:
- CNA-to-LPN - If you haven't earned your LPN license, but are a certified nursing assistant, or CNA, with a valid CNA license, a CNA-to-LPN bridge program may be the answer. Training to become an LPN typically takes anywhere from 12 to 18 months, but some of the material is similar to what is covered during CNA training. If you can show that you have a valid CNA license and, ideally, have some experience working as one, you may be eligible to enroll in this type of bridge program. If so, the school will take your previous experience and training as a CNA and apply it toward the completion of your LPN training. In this way, you can essentially skip past some of the material and be eligible and ready to sit for the NCLEX-PN licensing exam more quickly. Be aware that employers sometimes pay for CNAs to obtain their LPN licenses, so it's something that's worth looking into.
- LPN-to-RN - Like many LPNs, you probably started out in the healthcare industry by earning your LPN license. To make the leap to registered nursing, there are two options: pursue an associate degree in nursing, or ADN, or a bachelor of science in nursing, or BSN. The former option is faster, as it typically takes only around two years. However, if you are already an LPN with work experience, an LPN-to-RN bridge program may shave even more time off the training you need. Where it normally takes around two years to complete an ADN, LPN-to-RN bridge programs may allow you to get there in as little as 12 to 18 months. There is one caveat, however: employers increasingly prefer BSN-educated RNs, and RNs with BSNs have more advancement opportunities.
- LPN-to-BSN - If you want to become a registered nurse, but also want to command better pay and enjoy more extensive advancement opportunities in the future, earning a BSN is the way to go. If you were to start from scratch, you would be facing four years of schooling before earning that degree. As with other types of bridge programs, however, LPN-to-BSN bridge programs also take your previous training into account - which may allow you to earn your BSN a little more quickly. Because there is a fairly extensive gap in knowledge between the LPN level and the BSN level, you can still expect the training to take around three years or even 3.5 years to complete. Still, you will earn this crucial credential a little faster, which means that you will be able to start applying for jobs as a BSN-educated RN faster too.
- LPN-to-MSN - Licensed practical nursing is an entry-level healthcare position. Even if you’ve only held an LPN license thus far, you may want to eventually work your way up to a master's level education. A master of science in nursing, or MSN, allows you to move into advanced practice nursing, which includes becoming a nurse practitioner with an area of specialization. Nurse practitioners can even manage their own practices in most states, so it's a very prestigious and exciting credential to obtain. To enroll in virtually any MSN program, however, you must already possess a BSN. Therefore, programs that literally allow you to make the leap from LPN to MSN don't really exist. However, you can leap frog through a few bridge programs to get where you want to be faster. For instance, complete an LPN-to-BSN program in just three years, and then complete your MSN a few years after that. With online training available, this option is more accessible than you probably think.
Are you ready to advance from licensed practical nursing into registered nursing or beyond? LPN bridge programs are the way to go, so explore programs in your area and get the ball rolling on your training today.