LPN to RN bridge programs give licensed practical nurses the additional training necessary to become a registered nurse. A licensed practical nurse — known as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) in California, Texas, and Vermont — usually obtains a license after one to two years of training. As part of that process, students must pass the appropriate National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN).
LPNs monitor and record vital signs, prepare and administer prescribed medications and injections, dress wounds, and assist patients. They may work in long-term care facilities, hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, or other medical settings. LPNs typically report to registered nurses or doctors, and may assist them with various procedures, but do not make patient-care decisions. LPNs earn a median hourly wage of $19.25, with a median annual salary of $40,811. These rates vary depending on location, setting, and the nurse’s experience.
Registered nurses supervise LPNs, and can perform all the same duties. However, RNs can also develop care plans, oversee patient admissions and discharges, perform life support procedures, and manage a facility or hospital floor. These broader responsibilities, including supervisory and administrative capabilities, require more education and bring higher earning potential. RNs must earn either an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing, and must pass the NCLEX-RN, a process which typically takes two to three years. RNs earn a median hourly wage of $29.03, with a median annual salary of $62,085.
Types of LPN to RN Programs
LPN to ADN
LPNs who wish to advance their careers enroll in LPN to RN (or LVN to RN) bridge programs, which can be taken in-person or online. Both on-campus and online LPN to RN programs prepare students for RN licensure by completing an associate degree in nursing. These programs typically take up to two years, and the course load is not as strenuous as requirements for a more advanced degree. LPN to RN online programs are ideal for students who already work as nurses, as they can complete the coursework around their schedule. An associate degree qualifies RNs for entry-level positions, and a bachelor’s degree allows them to advance their career in roles such as supervisor, administrator, or other leadership position. Many medical facilities are beginning to phase out RNs who only have an ADN, encouraging nurses to complete their BSNs.
LPN to BSN
If a bachelor’s degree lines up with your career goals, you can choose a program that leads to a bachelor of science in nursing. These LPN to BSN (or LVN to BSN) programs typically take four years from start to finish, though you can become an LPN during the process and may begin working as a nurse while you complete your BSN. The coursework is naturally more intensive than in an associate degree program, but the BSN grants more career mobility. You can move into more specialized roles, positions with greater responsibility, and staff management jobs, which come with higher salaries. Earning a BSN also allows you to pursue a master’s in nursing, which can open up even more advanced career opportunities.
Is an Online LPN to RN Program Right For Me?
It’s worth comparing the typical job responsibilities, daily challenges, and career prospects of LPNs and RNs. Legally, LPNs must be supervised by RNs. Therefore, most routine patient care activities are performed by LPNs, including taking vital signs, dispensing medication, changing bedpans, dressing wounds, and assisting patients with feeding and dressing themselves. Depending on the type of workplace, but particularly in settings such as nursing homes, long-term care facilities, or hospitals, LPNs often work long shifts — including nights, weekends, and holidays — and spend much of that time on their feet.
On the other hand, RNs perform many administrative tasks to manage these operations. They create work schedules for the LPNs and other nursing staff, and handle patient-facing duties which require more advanced medical expertise. An RN’s additional education allows for greater opportunities for career advancement. RNs also may work in specialized, critical care areas which pay higher salaries, such as operating rooms, intensive care units, emergency rooms, and labor and delivery wards.
LPN to RN bridge programs are designed specifically to take current LPNs through the necessary courses and training to pass the NCLEX-RN. Because students have completed training to become LPNs, they can pick up where they left off academically. Applicants usually have some professional experience working as an LPN, and most students are currently employed in the field. LPN to RN online or in-person programs require the applicant to present either proof of completion of an accredited practical nursing program, or a current practical or vocational nursing license from the relevant state. Applicants must be unencumbered and in good standing. They must also pass a criminal background check and drug screening.
An applicant may need to complete prerequisite courses before being admitted to an LPN to RN program. Most programs require test scores demonstrating adequate proficiency in math and science. Depending on the school, students may be able to request academic credit for training or professional experience they received as an LPN.
Job and Salary Outlook for RNs
Nurses often begin as an LPN/LVN and continue their education to become an RN. An RN with an associate degree typically earns more than an LPN, but is limited to entry-level RN roles. To become qualified for better-paying roles, including management positions in hospitals, an RN must earn a BSN. Many nurses eventually also complete their MSN, preparing them for even more advanced and lucrative positions, including leadership and educator roles.
A pediatric nurse usually has a BSN. They work specifically with child patients. Pediatric nurses who work in specialized roles, such as pediatric ICU, typically earn a higher salary.
Annual Mean Wage: $55,000
Physician's Office Nurse
Physician’s office nurses typically are RNs with at least an ADN. They work in a doctor’s office, taking vital signs and getting health information from patients, and may help doctors perform procedures.
Annual Mean Wage: $48,000
What to Expect From an LPN to RN Online Program
How Long Does It Take to Complete an LPN to RN Online Program?
Most LPN to ADN bridge programs for RN licensure consist of 60-72 credits, and take 12-18 months to complete. The timing depends on how many credits you need when you begin the program, and whether you attend full-time. If you work full-time, you may only be able to take classes part-time. An LPN to RN online program is often convenient for busy professionals.
A BSN often takes four to five years when attending school full-time, and typically consists of 120 credits. The number of existing credits you transfer into the bridge program will determine the balance, which is typically around 60 credits. An LPN to BSN bridge program often takes a full-time student about three years to complete. If you work full-time while attending school part-time, completion will take five to six years.
Courses in an Online LPN to RN Program
LPN to RN online programs cover the additional material and field training LPNs need to pass the NCLEX-RN. Most courses can be completed online, but the required clinical hours must be completed in-person at an approved facility. Here are some courses you might expect to find in an LPN to RN online curriculum.
Pharmacology focuses on how drugs affect human body systems. Nursing students need an in-depth knowledge of pharmacology so they understand the medications they will prepare for and administer to patients.
Mental Health Nursing
Mental health is a growing sector of medicine which needs trained nurses. This course may include clinical hours in a mental health treatment facility.
The course is a must for nurses who wish to work in surgical departments assisting in surgery or treating post-operative patients. Students will learn about the special requirements of the surgical environment.
This course covers the basics involved in managing other nurses, going beyond routine duties, and focusing on skills needed to supervise an effective nursing staff.
A clinical internship prepares nursing students for their future role as RNs. A nursing student needs substantial, hands-on medical training in a professional environment, including observation by experienced professionals.
While enrolled in an LPN to RN online program, you can complete most of your coursework at home. However, these programs require you to complete an in-person clinical internship, as hands-on experience is necessary. The number of clinical hours required varies by program, but may range from 200-500 hours. It is helpful to live near the facilities where you will be completing your internships. Schools should have a support system to help connect you with appropriate nearby facilities.
Accredited Online LPN to RN Programs
As you research LPN to RN online programs, it is important to verify that the programs are accredited. To become accredited, experts from a recognized accreditation organization evaluate a program’s admission and academic standards. Graduating from an accredited program assures that you received an education which meets standards of excellence and has prepared you for the challenges of your chosen field. You need this assurance to prove your qualifications to your future employers, government bodies which issue professional licenses and certifications, or schools where you may pursue another advanced degree.
A school may earn two types of accreditation: regional and national. Regional accreditation is the most prestigious, and is usually given to qualifying nonprofit colleges and universities. National accreditation typically applies to for-profit institutions and trade schools. Nursing programs also may receive accreditation from organizations that specialize in the field. The two main accreditation organizations for nursing programs are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Be sure any LPN to RN online program you consider is accredited by one of these organizations.
Online LPN to RN Programs