LPN Bridge Programs
When it comes to educational advancement, few professions are more suited to bridge programs than nursing. Bridge programs are especially important for LPNs as they climb the career ladder, because the program they choose will go a long way toward outlining the opportunities available to them.
LPN bridge programs can be divided into four basic categories:
The first is the most common, but all four categories have significant advantages and attractions, especially as nursing shortages increase and educational diversity becomes increasingly important to financial and career growth.
But finding and choosing the right LPN bridge program isn’t easy. There’s a lot that goes into the decision, some of it having to do with the program itself, with other aspects revolving around financing, career path and other considerations. Here are some important factors to help you evaluate the bridge programs you’re considering and help you make the right choice.
Virtually all LPN bridge programs require a similar array of core nursing courses. That means anatomy, physiology and biology courses, general education classes, and hands-on work designed to prepare nurses for general hospital environments, working in physicians offices and practicing nursing in specialty environments.
Beyond that, some of the academic choices will obviously be dictated by your choice of degree programs. Depending on whether you want to work as an RN, an ADN or do work requiring an advanced degree like a BSN or MSN, at least some of the courses you’ll need to take will be specified by whatever program you’re considering.
But there is another element of prospective coursework to evaluate.
You should know in advance what the continuing education requirements are for the degree you’re seeking and the state where you want to work. You may need to schedule additional courses or hands-on practicums to meet these requirements, and you’ll need to balance that work with the basic requirements of your degree program.
Do grades matter? Yes, especially as you make your way up the educational ladder. If you’re looking at LPN-to-RN bridge programs, most of the coursework is geared toward getting an associates degree in nursing and passing the NCLEX-RN exam.
But if you’re looking at an elite school or an advanced degree program, the criteria changes. Having a high GPA and scoring well in the NCLEX-RN exam can make the difference if you’re applying for an elite program, and many of the better schools have specific GPA and exam school requirements. It’s important to know these in advance so you can make sure to balance your work schedule with the academic demands you’ll face.
Licensing matters most in LPN-to-RN bridge programs, where one of the major goals is to pass the NCLEX-RN exam, which is the license required in virtually every state to acquire an RN license. Much of the coursework in these programs is geared toward getting a license and passing that particular exam.
As you go up the career ladder, though, its about the degree and the work it opens the doors for you to do. Much of this has to do with the career path; LPNs considering a bridge program to an ADN, BSN or MSN should know specifically what their ultimate job goal is, whether its nursing education, specialized clinical work, or moving up to do advanced administrative or management work.
Many of the different bridge programs are designed to meet these specific needs. When you’re considering a bridge program, make sure you know what the strengths are with regard to different types of nursing work and environments, and know something about the track record of the program when it comes to job placement and hiring as well.
Once again, the ultimate goal of virtually every LPN-to-RN nursing program is to help nurses pass the NCLEX-RN while they get their associates degree. If you’re looking at a bridge program where this is the goal, you should know what the state’s pass rate for the exam is, and also what the pass rate is of any programs you’re considering.
Another important point related to this is the retake policy for the exam if you end up struggling to pass the NCLEX-RN. Virtually every state has a required period that must go by before you can take the exam again, with this period usually varying from 45-90 days.
In addition, there are limits in many states on how often you can retest, and certain time requirements attached to retesting as well. What resources does your bridge program offer if you need to retest to help you make the grade? Make sure you ask this question and others related to whatever bridge programs you’re considering.
Online vs On-site
Online study is an important feature of many bridge programs these days, and its become attractive to many candidates because it offers flexibility, convenience and even cost savings in some instances. This is especially true for bridge program candidates in rural areas where schools and campuses are sparse, and also for candidates with busy schedules that restrict their availability for live, in-person education.
But while the online option may have made significant inroads in the academia, it still isn’t universally accepted in the real world. Many hospitals don’t accept degrees from bridge programs that are earned online, regardless of the reputation and integrity of the program.
That means you need to do your homework, so to speak. Do the hospitals where you’re looking for work accept an online degree, and if so, how do they handle the issue of hands-on, practical work that may not be fulfilled by online study? If you’re in a rural area and you decide to get an online degree, are there enough hospitals and physicians for you to get work with that pedigree?
These kinds of questions should also be posed to the schools themselves. The most popular programs include Excelsior, Kaplan, the University of Phoenix, etc., and all of them have helped initiate and advance hundreds of nursing careers. But you should check them out thoroughly before committing to this option given the fact that online degrees still aren’t universally accepted.