Graduating from a nursing program can be accomplished in a number of ways. Depending on the time, budget, and educational credits already earned, the candidate may be able to start work as a registered nurse (RN) in less than a year! Most universities have nursing schools and students are able to attend prerequisite classes and apply after 2 years. These students will graduate with a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) and can apply for state licensure and ultimately employment as a RN.

However, for some students this isn't the best path.

Perhaps the student changed majors multiple times and now has credits which do not apply to nursing instead of credits that do. Additional classes are required to apply for nursing school and the cost is too high to start over at a 4-year university or the wait list too long.

Others may find themselves wishing to leave a career after many years to become a nurse and the traditional university setting does not appeal to them. Either the hours are not flexible enough to balance both work and family or the cost of classes to too high.

For those who wish to avoid the traditional university setting, have no fear. Bridge programs exist!

Should an LPN/LVN Become an RN?

The short answer is "Yes! Absolutely!"

Phasing out LPN?

Many healthcare facilities, including hospitals, have already started phasing out the LPN position, with the intention of making it obsolete. Some lucky LPNs already employed for many years before this started have likely been "grandfathered" into their jobs, however they may have been asked to earn the RN to keep the job. This is mostly due to many RNs seeking employment and the inability to assign patients solely to a LPN, as LPNs legally require direct RN supervision. Eventually, the LPN position is likely to be completely gone.

Career Flexibility

RNs have a lot more options for places to work versus LPNs. Hospitals, clinics, physician's offices, insurance companies, pharmaceutical sales, education, and many more options exist for RNs. Some of these may still employ LPNs but the positions will be far less common and the pay far less as well.

More Money

RN's make more money than LPN's. See the below salary table outlining the increase in pay from an LPN vs RN position by state.

State LPN Annual Salary RN Annual Salary Percent Increase
Alabama 35,570 56,470 58.8%
Alaska 54,380 85,740 57.7%
Arizona 50,760 71,300 40.5%
Arkansas 36,040 56,480 56.7%
California 51,700 98,400 90.3%
Colorado 46,780 69,600 48.8%
Connecticut 55,170 76,370 38.4%
Delaware 47,700 70,160 47.1%
District of Columbia 52,680 80,040 51.9%
Florida 41,540 62,720 51.0%
Georgia 38,010 62,350 64.0%
Hawaii 46,520 88,230 89.7%
Idaho 39,430 60,320 53.0%
Illinois 44,870 68,030 51.6%
Indiana 40,580 58,900 45.1%
Iowa 38,750 54,020 39.4%
Kansas 39,460 56,800 43.9%
Kentucky 38,090 57,980 52.2%
Louisiana 37,810 60,230 59.3%
Maine 41,750 63,320 51.7%
Maryland 50,440 72,210 43.2%
Massachusetts 53,820 85,770 59.4%
Michigan 44,310 67,180 51.6%
Minnesota 42,000 71,450 70.1%
Mississippi 36,400 56,560 55.4%
Missouri 37,660 58,040 54.1%
Montana 38,760 61,810 59.5%
Nebraska 38,760 57,550 48.5%
Nevada 52,760 80,240 52.1%
New Hampshire 47,590 65,790 38.2%
New Jersey 52,950 78,330 47.9%
New Mexico 46,360 65,790 41.9%
New York 45,660 77,110 68.9%
North Carolina 41,730 60,030 43.9%
North Dakota 39,790 58,120 46.1%
Ohio 40,790 62,490 53.2%
Oklahoma 38,320 57,830 50.9%
Oregon 48,550 82,940 70.8%
Pennsylvania 43,550 66,570 52.9%
Rhode Island 52,110 75,510 44.9%
South Carolina 39,070 59,670 52.7%
South Dakota 35,210 53,970 53.3%
Tennessee 36,420 57,030 56.6%
Texas 44,880 68,590 52.8%
Utah 43,080 61,100 41.8%
Vermont 44,420 64,320 44.8%
Virginia 40,500 63,880 57.7%
Washington 49,220 78,540 59.6%
West Virginia 35,020 56,390 61.0%
Wisconsin 42,820 65,590 53.2%
Wyoming 43,300 60,790 40.4%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, data extracted on August, 2016

LPN vs RN: The Differences

The Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is a nurse who has completed nursing prerequisites plus one year of nursing school. The LPN cannot work in the same settings as a registered nurse and they often find themselves limited to only a few places for employment. However, the registered nurse can work in the same settings as the LPN, usually in a supervisory role, plus a lot more.

For this reason, LPN programs may be less desirable than RN programs, but they are usually still available in most states. Many LPN programs are being phased out of schools because LPNs are being hired less and less in the healthcare marketplace. But for the individual wishing to fast track to an Associate's degree in nursing (ADN) this may be a great option.

The LPN to RN program may be a shortcut method of being accepted into nursing school and much faster than attending traditional ADN or BSN programs. And for employment opportunities, most facilities do not require a Bachelor's degree to get hired but may require it within a set amount of years or employment. See RN to BSN.

Check out our breakdown of the two career paths with RN vs LPN.

What Are the Benefits of LPN to RN Programs?

When compared to ADN or BSN programs many benefits exist for the LPN to RN bridge program.

Short Waiting List

Attending a trade school or community college which offers the LPN program may have a shorter waiting list and be less expensive than the RN program. And once completed the LPN qualifies for the LPN to RN bridge program. Because many students do not consider becoming a LPN as a stepping stone to becoming a RN the waiting list for the bridge program is often much shorter than traditional RN programs.

Short Program

LPN to RN bridge programs are only about a year, or less to graduate with the Associate's Degree of Nursing (ADN). Because the bridge program only needs to teach the second year of nursing school, the first was completed during LPN school, and meet the state requirements for clinical hours this program is shorter than attending the traditional ADN program all at once.

Smaller Class Size

Because this is not the traditional path most students consider the class sizes may be smaller than ADN or BSN programs. This can be helpful when trying to find tutoring or asking questions to the instructor during class. Many instructors will know the students by name and be available for help when needed. Closer bonds between students is common which helps form study groups and build an understanding of material.

Healthcare Experience

LPNs are usually working in the healthcare field as a nurse while adding to their nursing education with the RN program. This experience in healthcare is priceless. School can teach a nurse how to be safe and understand the human body but nothing quite takes the place of gaining actual real world experience.

Work During School

Most LPN to RN programs are scheduled with the working nurse in mind. Whether it be shorter hours for more days a week, evenings, longer hours for less days a week, or some variation, LPN to RN programs support the LPN work schedule.

RELATED - During RN School & After

What Are the Requirements of LPN to RN Bridge Programs?

While requirements vary with each program and each school some similarities are likely to exist.

  • High school diploma or GED
  • 18 years old or older
  • Fluent in reading, writing, and speaking English
  • US citizen or permanent resident
  • Graduation from an accredited nursing school
  • GPA of 2.5 or greater
  • Prerequisite courses satisfied with LPN program or otherwise
  • LPN license in good standing with the State board of nursing

LPN to RN Classes and Curriculum

Many of the basics of nursing are learned during the first year of nursing school, which is the LPN program. So LPNs already know the basics of patient care and some critical thinking skills.

But one of the hallmark differences is teaching the LPN to become a more independent critical thinker. After all, by law, the RN supervises the LPN, so the RN needs to be able to function safely and independently as an expert nurse while under the supervision of a physician.

The LPN to RN curriculum requires graduates to be experts in:

  • Advanced physical assessment
  • Advanced pharmacology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Advanced biology
  • Critical thinking

What Kinds of Clinical Hours Can I Expect in the RN Program?

State law requires additional clinical hours to be eligible to take the NCLEX-RN.

These hours may be totally different settings than the LPN program or may be in the same areas. This all depends on the school's and state's requirements.

RN clinical areas may include:

  • Intensive care units
  • Medical-surgical floors
  • Telemetry units
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Community health settings
  • Psychiatric care facilities
  • Neonatal ICU
  • Pediatrics

Why Are Clinical Hours Important for Nurses?

Clinical hours are intended to apply classroom teaching to the "real world." Learning about a disease in a textbook and then actually taking care of a patient who has this disease are two very different things.

Textbooks teach the nursing student about a disease process by discussing:

  • Signs and symptoms
  • Predispositions
  • Disease characteristics
  • Nursing implications of the disease process, such as,
    • Risks for skin breakdown
    • Nutritional status
    • Airway management
    • Barriers to discharge

Clinical hours are intended to apply these abstract ideas to the practical use of patient care. The nursing student will solidify learning during clinicals and put a human aspect to textbook disease processes.

What Happens After Nursing School Graduation?

Once the ADN is completed the nurse may now take the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for state licensure as a RN. This allows the nurse to apply for employment.

RELATED - Working as an RN and Registered Nursing Jobs

Many students network and explore employment opportunities during RN clinicals. This is a great way to find a job post-graduation. Networking with the nurse managers by asking for contact information and permission to contact upon graduation is a great start.