In today’s challenging healthcare environment, medical facilities are eagerly scooping up qualified LPN/LVN graduates. Qualified graduates who want to get started in nursing will find that earning the LPN or LVN title will put them to work within a year or so. However, nurses who want more of a professional challenge will soon see the limitations of the LPN/LVN credential.
Registered nurses (RN) have more opportunities for challenge and increased job responsibility. An RN also earns more than an LPN/LVN. Online bridge programs that move nurses from the LPN/LVN to RN credentials can help nurses already working in the field to expand both their advancement and their earning opportunities.
A Little Education Goes a Long Way
LPN/LVNs do complex medical tasks, but they always operate under the supervision of an RN because an RN has more educational qualifications. RNs have two to four years of coursework as opposed to one year for LPN/LVNs. This expanded education gives RNs the ability to serve in many different healthcare settings and to deliver care at any point in a patient’s life span.
RNs can earn either associate or baccalaureate degrees from recognized nursing schools within their states. Usually, nurses with bachelor’s degrees will earn more money than nurses with associate degrees. Some medical facilities will hire RNs with an associate degree, but more and more providers are looking for a bachelor’s degree before extending a job offer. RNs with bachelor’s degrees also have advantages when they apply for management positions.
After completing their degrees, RNs take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) exam within their states. The NCLEX-RN checks for entry-level safety and competency, and anyone who wants to be an RN must pass the exam.
How to Find the Right Program
LPN/LVNs who want to become RNs should look for programs accredited by one of two organizations: the National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCME). Also, they should make sure that their nursing programs are approved by their state boards of nursing.
Nurses who attend non-accredited schools will still be able to become RNs and to sit for the NCLEX-RN. However, when these nurses want to go earn a BSN or a master’s degree, they may not qualify for accredited higher-level programs. This inability to advance can hurt an RN’s chances for promotion and for earning a higher salary.
Distance Learning as an Option
Many LPN/LVN to RN bridge programs are offered primarily online. Typically, a nurse in a distance learning program has to set up his or her own supervised clinicals instead of relying on the university for support. Also, some universities may require nurses to come to campus to take major exams. Despite some of these challenges, distance learning allows nurses to set their own schedules so that they can keep working and earning while they study.
How Long Does It Take to Become an RN?
Different universities offer different amounts of credit to students who enter their nursing programs having already earned the LPN/LVN credential. Earning the LPN/LVN designation earlier will shorten the amount of time that students have to work to become RNs. However, bridge programs require different lengths of time depending on how many credits a university chooses to extend. Nurses should weigh this factor as they choose the appropriate college.
Nurses are in demand like never before, and RNs have the best chance of obtaining a rewarding and well-paid position. LPN/LVNs who want more challenge and a higher salary should not hesitate to enroll in bridge programs.