What are LPN-to-RN Programs?
LPN-to-RN programs are designed specifically for licensed practical nurses looking to further their education and career path. Using your LPN education and experience as a starting point, LPN-to-RN programs offer a more in-depth curriculum at an accelerated pace. Upon completion of this program, a licensed practical nurse has the qualifications to sit for the NCLEX-RN, the national RN licensing exam.
You can find LPN-to-RN programs in two forms: LPN-to-ADN and LPN-to-BSN. Many LPNs find that their practical knowledge helps with RN coursework while the RN program fills in nursing theory that isn’t included in LPN programs.
Fast Facts: Earning an associate’s degree will allow you to work as an entry-level RN. You may also have opportunities to manage LPNs.
Program Length: One to two years
Where can I find these programs? Community colleges, vocational schools and some universities
Fast Facts: RNs with bachelor’s degrees are more likely to receive promotions and autonomy, manage other nurses and receive higher pay. Nursing students in BSN programs can also choose specializations, such as pediatrics.
Program Lengths: Two to four years
Where can I find these programs? 4-year colleges and universities
As a licensed practical nurse (or licensed vocational nurse in California and Texas), you’re an integral part of a health care team. Your experience working with patients each day has prepared you for more responsibility. However, unless you’re a registered nurse, your career options and salary increases can be limited.
For a busy LPN, an LPN-to-RN bridge program is a perfect way to advance.
LPN-to-RN Bridge Programs
While the main purpose of an LPN-to-RN bridge program is to transition you to professional nursing, your education will include some non-nursing courses.
The “bridge” between LPN and RN is a collection of classes that fill the gap between the two career levels.
Before you can begin higher level nursing courses, you’ll first have to complete a number of prerequisites. The specific courses and amount will vary depending on your educational background. The length of your program will also be affected by how many prerequisites you need to complete.
Prerequisites typically fall in the general education category:
English composition, Anatomy and physiology, Biology, General chemistry
Be sure to check with your school regarding time limits for prerequisites. In some cases, if you took these courses more than five, seven or 10 years ago, they won’t be considered valid.
If you choose the BSN route, some schools will allow you to use some of your LPN experience as credit. In this case, the length of your program is shortened since you’ll jump into the BSN track around junior year.
Once you start the nursing curriculum, your courses will vary based on the degree you’re earning. If you’re working toward an ADN, you’ll learn about adult health nursing and transitioning to the role of RN. As a BSN student, your coursework will be more comprehensive including studies in public health, leadership and nurse management.
Here’s a sample of classes you may encounter during your time in an LPN-to-RN program.
In many cases, a clinical experience often follows classes such as women’s health and adult health so students can apply their classroom learning into a real world setting.
LPN-to-RN Entrance Exams
Nursing schools want to ensure you’re competent in a variety of subjects before enrolling you in a program. There a few different entrance exams schools use, but two popular ones are:
Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS):
Evaluates and measures proficiency in math, English, science and reading. You’ll be tested on scientific reasoning, algebraic formulas, grammar and life sciences.
National League for Nursing Pre-Admission Examination:
Reading comprehension, general biology, geometry, algebra, earth science, first aid and health are tested in a multiple choice format.
You can find practice tests online.
Are LPN-to-RN Online Programs Available?
Like many other nursing degree programs, LPN-to-RN online programs are available. Offering schedule flexibility, yet rigorous coursework, an online program is especially useful if you have other obligations, such as work and a family, that make it difficult to get to campus. Another perk? Many online schools charge lower tuition than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
Although you can take many of your classes online, most LPN-to-RN bridge programs operate using a hybrid model. This means you’ll still be required to gain clinical experience in person.
Online LPN-to-RN Programs and Clinical Experience
When applying to an LPN-to-RN online program, your school will provide you with clinical work requirements. Some programs set students up at a local health care facility, while other schools ask students to find their own clinical site.
If your program asks you to find a clinical site, it’s a good idea to scout out locations early and secure school approval.
Before you begin your search, find out if your program has a list of approved sites. They could range from hospitals to school systems.
You might be asked to find a site with the following:
- Acute care
- Maternity patients
- Pediatric patients
- Mental health clients
What to Expect from an Online LPN-to-RN Program
LPNs who have been working for a while often find it’s hard to give up their steady paycheck to head back to school. If you’re struggling with that same issue, an online LPN-to-RN program might be a suitable option.
Your course materials, quizzes and tests are delivered online. You’re also able to view videos and simulations as well as participate in discussions with other students. Professors are available by email.
You may be a good candidate for an online program if:
- You’re able to work independently and use self-discipline to get assignments done
- Your schedule is jam-packed with other obligations like work and family
- You have a dedicated space in your home to study
- You’re less concerned about networking with other students
An online LPN-to-RN program should prepare you to take the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
Nursing School Accreditation
When searching for an LPN-to-RN program, whether online or on-campus, be sure it’s accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and/or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
ACEN accredits nursing certificate, undergraduate, graduate and doctorate programs. CCNE accredits nursing undergraduate, graduate and residency programs.
Accreditation is important for a few reasons. It ensures the program and school meets strict requirements set forth by an accrediting agency. These organizations review a program to determine whether students will receive an effective education.
The other important reason is financial aid. If you attend a school that is not accredited, you’re not eligible for federal aid.
Accreditation is voluntary and isn’t guaranteed in perpetuity. Schools must reapply at certain intervals of time.
From LPN to RN: How Your Responsibilities Increase
LPNs and RNs share some of the same duties—taking vital signs and administering medication—regardless of the letters next to the name. However, because of their additional education, an RN is tasked with more complex duties than an LPN. Take a look at how your role can change if you become a registered nurse.
From assembling catheters and oxygen supplies
Observe patients for adverse reactions to treatment
From supervising nurses’ aides and assistants
Prepare food trays in accordance with patients’ diet
Cleaning rooms and beds
Assist patients with daily activities such as dressing, bathing and walking
Educating patients and families on disease prevention and other topics
Modify treatment plans based on patient conditions
Supervising other nurses
Monitoring patient care, including diet and activity
Preparing rooms with equipment and supplies
Providing immunizations and first aid to various populations
One of the main differences you’ll notice when you transition from LPN to RN is the level of autonomy you gain. As an LPN, your tasks are directed by a higher level nurse whereas an RN has some independence—although they do take direction from a superior as well—allowing them to make decisions in a number of areas. The scope of practice for LPNs differs by state, but generally an LPN isn’t permitted to initiate treatment plans nor are they able to independently take action based on patient information they interpreted.
Salary Differences Between an LPN and RN
Registered nurses earn significantly more than licensed practical nurses. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Licensed practical nurses earn a median income of
Registered nurses earn a median income of
With an RN, your salary opportunities can expand further depending on where you work.
LPN-to-RN Admission Requirements
If the career and salary opportunities have inspired you to get an RN, you can start preparing now. While every school is different, here are some general guidelines on what you’ll need:
- Current LPN license
- High school diploma
- Six month of LPN experience
- Passing score on entrance exam
As mentioned earlier, you’ll also need to complete certain prerequisite courses, such as biology and English composition.
In addition to this, most programs will require a physical exam and medical history, background check and up-to-date immunizations.
As you consider which RN degree to earn, consider your overall career goals. If you have dreams to one day work in advanced nursing, for example, a BSN is required for a master’s program.