Nursing Bridge Programs: Accelerated Nursing Programs & Schools
If you’re a nurse who is ready to take your career to the next level but find the idea of heading back to school full time daunting, nursing bridge programs might be a perfect option for you. Bridge programs offer an educational path that provides a more accelerated pace than a traditional program, because they take into account your previous nurse schooling and career experience. They are designed to bridge the gap from one knowledge level to a more advanced knowledge and skill level.
Some people start in nursing as LPNs and decide they want to continue their education and become RNs. Some RNs decide to pursue a BSN degree, while nurses with a BSN decide to go for an advanced degree. A nursing bridge program provides a great way to make any of these kinds of transitions in less time and at less cost than traditional programs.
What Nursing Bridge Programs are Available?
It’s important to find a program that meets your needs. Luckily, there are bridge programs available to accommodate most scenarios.
- LPN to RN: LPN to RN bridge programs are typically for LPNs who want to become an RN. Usually this is accomplished through earning an associate degree in nursing, or ADN. Since LPNs already have some nursing experience, LPN-RN programs are shorter than traditional ADN programs and result in the same degree.
- LPN to BSN: LPN to BSN programs provide a flexible way to help you increase your responsibilities and improve your earnings as you become a BSN-level RN. BSN-level nurses are usually more involved in patient care plans, patient communication and advanced procedures. They often work in specialized areas.
- Accelerated BSN: If you already have a non-nursing healthcare degree but want to become a nurse, an accelerated nursing program will prepare you to move into the field through courses that focus on the fundamentals of the profession, including labs, and clinical rotations that provide opportunities for real-life patient-care situations. These programs can be completed in as little as 11 to 18 months.
- RN to BSN: If you’re an RN and want a BSN, you probably already know that a bachelor’s degree can expand your role as a nurse. Furthermore, a growing number of nursing jobs are open only to those who have a BSN. Plus, nurses who hold a BSN can earn more money.
- RN to MSN/Nurse Practitioner: Experienced registered nurses often reach a point where they want to do more, so they decide to advance their education by choosing to become a nurse practitioner (NP). Some schools have programs designed for RNs interested in becoming NPs.
- Direct-Entry MSN: Maybe you’ve never been a nurse, but you’re not happy in your current career. You know you want to pursue a career in healthcare. If you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you don’t have to earn a second bachelor’s degree to go into nursing. You could go into a graduate program through a direct-entry MSN program.
- BSN to PhD: You’re an experienced nurse with a BSN and know you have a lot to offer. If you’re ready to move into teaching, research, or a leadership role, and have decided to pursue an advanced degree, you might want to think about a BSN to PhD in nursing program. For nurses whose goal is teaching or research, these programs will give you more years of productive work.
- BSN to DNP: Only a small percentage of nurses hold a doctoral degree, but The Future of Nursing report from the Institute of Nursing and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the field will need twice as many nurses with doctorates by 2020 because of an increasingly significant shortage of nurse educators to train the nurses needed.
- Paramedic to RN: Paramedics are on the front lines of emergency care. Their medical training and quick reactions in crises make them great candidates to move into registered nursing as a way to increase their health care knowledge and career opportunities.
Which Nursing Bridge Program is Right for Me?
|Current Nursing License||Highest Level of Education||Bridge Program Options|
|None||B.S. in science or healthcare related field||Accelerated BSN, Direct Entry MSN|
|LPN||Certificate or Associate Degree||LPN to RN, LPN to BSN|
|RN||Diploma or ADN||RN to BSN|
|RN||ADN or BSN||RN to MSN|
|RN||BSN||BSN to PhD, BSN to DNP|
How Long are Nursing Bridge Programs?
- LPN to RN: Programs designed for licensed practical nurses to become RNs offer an accelerated pace that can be completed in 1 – 2 years and will prepare students to sit for the national RN licensing exam (NCLEX-RN).
- RN to BSN: Since you must already hold a certification as an RN to be qualified to be in this program, you can typically complete an RN-BSN program in about two years (as opposed to the four years it typically takes a novice to earn a BSN).
- RN to MSN: The amount of time needed will vary depending on your current level of education, but most students can finish the program in 2-3 years.
- BSN to PhD or DNP: A PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy in nursing, is a research-focused degree. A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a clinical practice degree. The time it takes for nurses with BSNs to complete a doctorate can vary greatly, taking anywhere from 3 – 6 years, depending on the degree being pursued, the number of transfer credits, the number of courses needed, and other factors. Both PhD and DNP graduates can work as nurse practitioners once they earn the proper credentials.
Do I Need to Have a Nursing License to Enter a Nursing Bridge Program?
It depends on the program. Non-nurses with a healthcare background can enter a direct entry MSN or accelerated BSN program. To enter all other nursing bridge programs, you need at least an LPN license to work towards an RN license and/or higher degree levels. You need to be a licensed RN to work toward an RN-BSN or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.
Can I Do a Nursing Bridge Program Online?
Many bridge programs can be completed online, but are only available for bridge programs designed for those who are already nurses. Online programs can be more time efficient and are typically the fastest way to earn the nursing degree you’re seeking.
Online programs offer a good solution for an LPN who wants a bachelor’s degree to become an RN, or for an RN who wants to earn a master’s degree in nursing.
Online programs offer more flexibility, which is great for those who want to continue their current nursing career while they attend a bridge program. Many online programs let you take some classes whenever you wish. For others, you’ll need to get online with your professor and classmates. In either case, if you have online access at home, you eliminate the need to commute or live on campus. That said, there is some course material and medical experience that requires hands-on learning, meaning you should expect to spend at least a little time in a classroom or medical facility as part of your online degree program
Compared to traditional on- campus programs, a good online nursing bridge program can save you time and money.
How Do Clinicals Work in Nursing Bridge Programs?
BSN and MSN nursing degrees require clinical and lab work. In a traditional program, you complete clinical work in the area where you’re taking your classes. In an online program, you’ll typically do clinicals at a hospital, clinic, or other medical facility in the area in which you live. Some programs set students up at a local facility, while other schools ask students to find their own clinical site and set up their own experiential sessions.
Some traditional institutions that offer online programs have simulated labs. These schools usually hold evening sessions in order to accommodate everyone’s schedules.
Before choosing an online nursing program, be sure to ask how their clinical program works and find out about clinical sites close to your home.
How Can I tell if My Nursing Bridge Program is Accredited?
Most schools will post that information on their website and include it in brochures. They want potential students to know they are accredited.
The major national accreditation bodies are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Before deciding on a nursing school program, confirm with your State Board of Nursing that graduates of the school you’re interested in are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN exam.
Can I Transfer Any of My Previous Nursing or Science Credits to My Bridge Program?
Maybe. Some schools will accept credits that meet their guidelines. Requests for credit transfers are usually reviewed on a course-by-course basis. Guidelines typically include:
- A timeframe requirement (for example, classes must have been completed within the prior x years).
- The transferring institution must be accredited by a recognized agency
- Course content similar in scope
- Comparable credit units
- A grade of ‘C’ or better
How Much Do Nursing Bridge Programs Cost?
As with most things you can buy, there is a wide range of prices available and many variables to consider, including your current level of education, whether you’re considering a public or private school, whether you’re applying to an in-state, out-of-state, or online program, the degree you want, the cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies at the school you’re interested in, and other things like housing and transportation. According to a 2018 US News and World Report ranking of the top 100 nursing schools, tuition ranges from less than $50 per credit to $1850 per credit.
Considering a broader base of schools, average tuition costs will typically run $12,000 – $35,000. But remember, costs can vary by program.
Are There Any Scholarships Available for Nursing Students in Bridge Programs?
Nurses are in high-demand. Scholarships, loan forgiveness, and loan repayment plans may be available to nursing bridge students. Here are a few you might want to check into:
- The NURSE Corps Scholarship program provides funds for nursing students based on financial need. In exchange for the award, nurses agree that upon graduation they will work for a specified time at an eligible facility.
- NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program supports registered nurses (RNs), advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and nurse faculty by paying up to 85% of their unpaid nursing education debt.
- Federal financial aid may be available for nursing students seeking a BSN. General eligibility requires that you have financial need, are a U.S. citizen (or eligible noncitizen), and be enrolled in a qualified program.
- Students holding a bachelor’s degree who want a nursing degree may apply for a federal loan. Loans must be repaid after you are no longer a student. The amount awarded is based on need and loan history.
- Private scholarships such as the nursing scholarships offered by us at Best Nursing Degree and other private grants are also available.
- If you’re already employed as a nurse, your employer may cover some or all of the tuition cost.
What are the Benefits of Nursing Bridge Programs?
Nursing bridge programs require less time and are less expensive than a traditional degree program so they allow students to fast track a nursing degree. Completing a bridge program can open opportunities for a nurse to take on more responsibilities and get involved in more advanced procedures and enhanced patient care.
Experienced nurses often have the desire to learn more and improve their skills, but can’t afford not to work for the amount of time it can take to pursue a degree through a traditional route. Nursing bridge programs provide a solution that helps these nurses achieve their goals while at the same time they keep them in the workforce. In that respect bridge programs not only help individual nurses, they offer a way to help combat the shortage of nurses In America.
In a March, 2018 article, Modern Healthcare discusses the current nursing shortage and its impact on hospitals and healthcare and how, as baby boomers age, the need for skilled nurses will only continue to increase. In the same month, CNN reported that, in order to recruit nurses, hospitals offer incentives such as financial bonuses, free housing, tuition payment, or tuition reimbursement.
Nursing and healthcare face many other challenges. There are a number of nursing trends to keep an eye on, from rising costs, hospital mergers and acquisitions, increased immigration and language barriers, rising substance abuse and opioids, and changing technologies. The nursing landscape is a continuously changing one.
Nurses play a critical role in society and the need for them is greater than ever. They are the backbone of the healthcare systems that ensure the health and wellness of individuals, families, and communities.
Nursing Organizations and Resources
Nursing organizations provide valuable resources for nurses and opportunities for networking, professional development, nursing advocacy, and education. Here are several organizations you may want to look into:
- American Nurses Association (ANA)–The ANA strives to improve patient care by supporting both individuals and organizations in the advancement of the nursing profession.
- State Nursing Associations–Every state has one or more state-based association. Nurses should consider joining their state’s primary nursing association. The American Nurses Association provides a list of all state-level organizations. Since nurses must complete continuing education (CE) credits, most state associations will provide lists of CE opportunities. Some associations offer seminars, webinars and other educational tools.
- Specialty Area Organizations— Specific disciplines have organizations that focus on their unique area, such as the Emergency Nurses Association, Nurse Practitioners Association, and so on.
In addition to professional organizations, there are many resources nurses can draw on, including:
- American Journal of Nursing (AJN), a nursing publication started in 1900.
- The National Library of Medicine (NLM), which provides free, reliable information resources, including MedlinePlus, PubMed, PubMed Online Training, ClinicalTrials, Genetics Home Reference, Nursing Resources for Standards and Interoperability, AIDSource, and other tools.
- Lippincott NursingCenter offers a variety of clinical nursing resources such as the latest research and recommendation, drug information, and patient education tools.