Guide to Nursing Programs and RN Careers

One of the careers that is in high demand right now is that of nurse. People will always need medical care, and nurses are essential to the health care industry. As a result, the job prospects for nurses of all kinds remain rather strong. There are two main designations of nurse in the United States:

  1. Licensed practical nurse (LPN)
  2. Registered nurse (RN)

Registered nurses generally have more autonomy and responsibility than licensed practical nurses. Many LPNs decide to become RNs after a while, hoping for career advancement and an increase in pay.

Differences Between LPNs and RNs

A licensed practical nurse is one who has gone through training in basic nursing skills. The credential to become an LPN is usually an associate’s degree or diploma from a nursing school. LPNs are licensed by individual states to provide patient care, but their license does not provide the same allowances as the licensure granted to RNs. Some of the care that a licensed practical nurse can provide includes treating and dressing wounds, monitoring and reporting on patient condition, and recording vital signs. Many nurses prefer to start out as LPNs because the time spent in study is shorter than that required to become a RN, and it is possible to start a career (and earn money) earlier. However, after some time spent as a LPN, it often becomes desirable to advance to become an RN.

A registered nurse is one that has gone through more training and education. The course of study may last between two and four years for a registered nurse. However, when an RN is done, he or she may be able to handle more complex situations, treating conditions, administering medications, and taking a more active role in helping doctors and advanced practice nurses. RNs also usually have more autonomy to work than LPNs, and require less supervision. As an RN, it is also possible to get a Bachelor of Nursing degree and enjoy even more responsibility. From there, it is possible to get a Master of Nursing degree and become an advanced practice nurse, and then even get a doctorate in nursing.

LPN to RN Bridge Programs

If you decide that you want to become a registered nurse, it is possible to do so using a LPN to RN bridge program. These programs are available online from accredited online institutions. Most bridge programs are designed to allow you to keep your current job and earn a living while you advance your education and your career. These programs are desirable because they allow licensed practical nurses to complete RN requirements without repeating some of the credits and courses already taken. Enrolling in a full RN program, rather than a bridge program, can sometimes mean repetition.

After you complete the bridge program, you will then be required to pass a national licensure exam to become a RN. This test is called the NCLEX-RN, and is a standardized test. You will also be required to graduate from an approved program (check with your State Board), and then complete a Nursing and Allied Health application. Once you have met those requirements, you can be designated as a registered nurse.

LPN to RN bridge programs are available around the country, and online. The flexible scheduling often makes it easy for you to complete your requirements. A good program will help you pass your exam, and prepare you for the duties of a registered nurse. The fact that you already have practical experience a nurse, though, should also help you prepare. This practical experience is one of the reasons that bridge programs are gaining popularity. Nurses who have already worked don’t want to take 101 level classes again. LPN to RN bridge programs let you dive right into more advanced learning and skills you might not have picked up on the job.

As illustrated in the graph below, the number of students enrolling in higher education with the intent of becoming a health professional has showed marked increase, nearly doubling in the past half century. In a field with many highly educated workers, getting more education is one of the best ways to get ahead.

Your Career as a Registered Nurse

Once you are an RN, new opportunities will open up for you. You will be able to have more independence in your work, and be approved to handle more situations. Additionally, you will be eligible to continue your career, earning nursing degrees and perhaps becoming an advanced practice nurse. Advanced practice nurses include nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners. Advanced practice nurses have even more autonomy, and in some states can even diagnose and treat most conditions — and even write prescriptions.

Even if you don’t go on to involve yourself in advanced practice, you still have a number of opportunities as a registered nurse. It is possible to specialize in different areas of work, or to specialize in specific settings. Some of the options include:

  • Ambulatory Care: These nurses often work in clinical settings, treating a wide variety of injuries and illnesses.
  • Critical Care: These are nurses that work in intensive care departments in the hospital. They are trained to deal with more acute and complex conditions.
  • Emergency Care: Some nurses specialize in emergency room care, treating conditions that need immediate attention. This is fast-paced work that requires steady nerves.
  • Pediatric: If you enjoy working with children, you can become a pediatric nurse. In some cases, you might work with infants, and even be assigned to the neonatal intensive care unit, although NICU nurses often have special experience and training to outfit them for the delicate work in such an environment.
  • Labor and Delivery: As you might imagine, L&D nurses help mothers during labor, and assist the lead health care professional in birthing.
  • Medical-Surgical: These are nurses that focus their efforts on helping in the operating room, and also aid in diagnosing and treating more serious diseases.
  • Hospice: Often, hospice nurses are palliative care nurses. They help in hospice settings, often helping with pain management and end of life care.
  • Home Health Care: These nurses care for patients in their own homes, providing check-ups, administering medication and providing other types of care.

There are a number of other specialties available as well. As an RN, you might have the option to specialize, gaining specific — and sometimes advanced — knowledge in a specific area.

In the end, a LPN to RN bridge program can be a great way to improve your knowledge of nursing, while advancing your career and opening the door to new opportunities.

Funding Your Continuing Nursing Education

People who are working as nurses and want to go back to school for a more advanced degree are in the best possible position for getting education financial aid. Having work experience, and having proven your long term commitment to the field of nursing by working for a few years, will make both schools and employers much more interested in investing in your future. Schools may offer merit based scholarships, or give you class credit for your work experience, and many employers will help pay for college courses in exchange for a promise that you will continue to work there for a certain time period after finishing your education. In that scenario, the employer benefits from your new skills, and once the time is up, you’ve still got your degree to help get you a better job.

What To Look For in a Good LPN to RN Bridge Program

There are a few characteristics to look for in LPN to RN bridge programs to discern how high quality they are. Not all programs are created equal, so doing a little research about the caliber of any program you are considering can pay off in the end. Factors that are especially important include:

  • Accreditation: This means a program has been approved by an agency with the support of the U.S. Secretary of Education. Higher education institutions of worth are all accredited, so anyone who wants a degree should check the accreditation status of their potential school.
  • Reputation Among Students: If you can find some former students of your potential school, talking to them about their experience can be one of the best ways to tell how good an LPN to RN bridge program is.
  • Speed: For many students who are returning to college, getting their degree finished quickly is the number one priority. Make sure to confirm how many classes you’ll have to take, and how long they last, to see if any given program matches your scheduling needs.

The schools listed below and elsewhere on this site offer 100 percent accredited and top flight LPN to RN bridge programs. Click around to get in touch with a few schools and find out more about how fast their programs are, and how much they cost.

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