How Can a Paramedic Become an RN?
Even though paramedics and registered nurses (RNs) have very different careers, their training and job duties are similar enough that the progression from paramedic to RN is an educational pathway often pursued by those seeking a step up in their healthcare career. Earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) through a bridge program are two ways paramedics can become RNs.
Paramedics don’t have nursing experience, but they do have experience providing patient care and treatment in emergency situations. Additionally, paramedics are licensed and required to complete formal healthcare education programs. This can provide the background for a great nursing career. It could also be a smart career move for many paramedics.
“Primary reasons paramedics seek to advance their careers and become RNs include increased monetary compensation, and the opportunity to explore other healthcare avenues such as critical care and emergency medicine,” says Amanda Dawson, RN, MSN-Ed, the Paramedic to RN Program coordinator at Stark State College in North Canton, Ohio.
You’ve already completed at least 1,200 hours of formal medical education if you’re currently working as a paramedic. Your paramedic program likely covered broad topics such as anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, and biology, as well as the skills to perform life-saving medical care. That education was on top of the initial courses you took to earn your Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification, the first step toward paramedic licensure in most states. Luckily, if you’re interested in becoming an RN, you can use your paramedic education as the foundation for an RN degree.
Paramedics have two RN degree options:
Either degree will allow you to earn RN licensure and begin working. Generally, an ADN takes two years and a BSN takes four. However, students in paramedic-to-RN bridge programs are often able to complete their degrees much faster.
Bridge programs aren’t uncommon in the field of nursing. People who have some nursing education can often enter a program that will allow them to advance without repeating credits and training they already have. The LPN-to-RN bridge program is a good example of this: Those who are already licensed practical nurses (LPNs) can earn either an ADN or a BSN to become an RN at an accelerated pace.
No matter which educational path you choose, bridge programs are designed to build on the healthcare education you already have, and on the real-world skills you use every day. Bridge programs will expand on your existing knowledge with courses in topics such as nursing theory or care planning.
“The prior knowledge of a paramedic allows their transition from paramedic to RN to be a much smoother process than it often is for our more traditional nursing students,” says Dawson.
Paramedic-to-ADN Bridge Program
These programs are typically designed and structured with paramedics who are currently working in mind. There might be options for part-time schedules, online courses, or for night and weekend classes.
“Paramedics can still work while attending our program, as our requirement is only onsite two days a week,” says Dawson. “The curriculum is completed in three semesters.” She also says that ADN programs are a great fit for students looking to earn their degrees fast and save money.
“An associate degree program graduate takes the same NCLEX (nursing license exam) at the end of the program as the BSN graduate,” Dawson says. “The main difference is our students complete the workload in half the time and for a fraction of the cost.”
Paramedic-to-BSN Bridge Program
A paramedic-to-BSN bridge program is a good fit for students who are looking to earn a bachelor’s degree and pursue advanced career paths. While both ADN and BSN graduates are able to earn RN licensure, there are some specific RN roles, job titles, and even employers that do require a BSN. For instance, if a career goal of yours is to be a nurse case manager at a medical facility, a paramedic-to-BSN bridge is probably a better fit for you than a paramedic-to-ADN bridge.
Can I Get My Degree Online?
Many schools offer online paramedic-to-RN bridge programs. You’ll be able to take your courses online when you choose one of these programs. This allows you to work at your own pace and might allow you to earn your degree faster.
However, all nursing degrees do have clinical experience requirements. That means that even if you take all your classes online, you will need to complete formal clinical hours in person. Your school will likely help you set up clinical work at a local facility.
Why Would a Paramedic Want to be a Nurse?
Paramedics are key players in the healthcare field. They respond to emergency situations and provide all of the medical care that a patient needs before they arrive at a hospital. This includes:
RNs also provide patient care and need to master every skill paramedics already have. So, for a paramedic looking to advance their education and career, nursing is a natural choice.
The expanded duties and opportunities, along with the potential for a significant bump in salary, make this career move appealing to many paramedics. Plus, it’s a great way to change careers by building on your current role and experience.
The expanded duties and opportunities, along with the potential for a significant bump in salary, make this career move appealing to many paramedics.
“Paramedics already have a background in critical care, trauma, and some RN skills,” says Dawson. “They are quick learners and fast-acting (in) patient scenarios.”
Paramedic vs RN Responsibilities
Popular Nursing Jobs for Former Paramedics
Paramedics respond to a wide variety of emergency situations, such as heart attacks, strokes, anaphylaxis, car accidents, in-home accidents, and violent crime. This experience can translate to a variety of nursing specialties. Some specialties, such as emergency room nursing, trauma nursing, or operation room nursing, draw on many of the same skills as paramedic work and are especially popular with former paramedics.
“Paramedics generally gravitate towards the emergency department or critical care intensive units,” says Dawson. “Some will consider medical-surgical or surgery as well.”
Paramedic vs RN Salary
Paramedics who become nurses may see a sizable jump in salary, although salaries will depend on experience, education, employer, and location. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paramedics (which are classified together with EMTs) earn a median salary of $36,650. The top 10% of paramedics may earn a median salary of $62,150, which is still 20% less than an RN’s median salary of $75,330.
Do Paramedics Make Good Nurses?
Paramedics have the potential to make excellent nurses. Many of the skills and traits needed to be a successful paramedic can also help you succeed as a nurse. Additionally, the experience gained as a paramedic can be used in daily nursing practice.
Paramedics can make great nurses because they:
“Paramedics make great RN’s when given the correct education pathway,” says Dawson.