In nursing, as with most professions, specializing and gaining more expertise is one way to advance your career. This process looks different for each healthcare professional and is largely dictated by their current job title, professional goals, level of education, and sometimes location.
For some licensed practical nurses (LPNs), taking the next step in their career means transitioning to the role of registered nurse (RN). Registered nurses are the largest group of workers in the healthcare sector today. With practice settings ranging from hospitals to residential care facilities, registered nurses strive to improve the overall quality of life of their patients.
When you become an RN, your primary responsibilities may expand to include administering medication, monitoring patient recovery and progress, and educating patients on disease prevention. Your day-to-day duties will vary depending on your employer and practice setting, but you may find that you have a greater degree of freedom in practice. As an RN, you will also have the opportunity to concentrate on a specialty area of interest to you.
In order to make the transition from LPN to RN, LPNs generally complete an accredited registered nurse program and take the national exam for RN licensure known as the NCLEX-RN. In some cases, however, LPNs are able to waive a portion of the RN program because of their experience. LPNs may typically take between two to four years to make the transition, depending on the length of their program. There are many programs to choose from, including online LPN to RN programs for distance learners.
Between 2014 and 2030, some 2.2 million nurses are expected to enter the healthcare workforce [PDF, 856 KB], according to a 2017 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report. As employment of nurses continues to grow, choosing the right program for you and ensuring that you have specialty skills to address complex healthcare demands is key.
What is an LPN to RN?
Both LPNs and RNs work with patients across the lifespan and have a goal of ensuring that each patient has a seamless medical experience. They work toward this goal by providing optimal care and supporting physicians and doctors as they treat and care for patients.
There may be some overlap in the daily tasks of an LPN and RN, but there are also differences between the two. Here’s an overview of the two roles:
Licensed Practical Nurse
As an LPN, you are tasked with providing basic care to patients. This includes helping them to get dressed, helping them to eat and taking blood pressure and vitals. LPNs also assist doctors and RNs with patient records and official communications.
Nurses in this role have completed an accredited practical nursing certificate program. These one-year programs are available at community colleges. After completing an LPN program, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX-PN exam to get your license.
An RN plays a direct role in patient care, collaborating with doctors and other health professionals to craft the best treatment plans possible for patients. A registered nurse assesses patients’ conditions, administers medication, develops plans of care, and at times orders or performs diagnostic tests. RNs work in a range of medical settings, from nursing homes to schools to major hospitals and small clinics.
To practice as an RN, you need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for a license. Completing a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing, often called a BSN, at an accredited school makes you eligible to take the exam. Most undergraduate degree programs in nursing combine classroom coursework with clinical, on-site training.
LPN to RN Program
LPN to RN programs come in two forms: LPN-to-ADN programs and LPN-to-BSN programs. Both are designed to build on the existing knowledge, training and experience of an LPN, and can be completed on campus or online. Opting for either one of these routes has its benefits. Before choosing a specific program, review the program’s website, weigh the pros and cons of what is being offered and be sure that the program can help you reach your career goals.
Why Choose LPN to RN Program?
There are a number of factors that can inspire the transition from LPN to RN. As an LPN, your practice settings may differ. But if you find yourself wanting to provide specialized services to a specific patient population or supervise others nursing professionals, an LPN to RN program could be a good fit for you.
LPNs enrolled in an online ADN degree program typically take two years to complete that program, while a student enrolled in a traditional BSN program often takes four. The benefit of an online program is that it allows LPNs to balance their coursework with their work schedule. The LPN-to-BSN program on the other hand, may take anywhere between two and four years to complete. But it is important to note that some schools offer LPNs the option to waive certain core courses from the BSN curriculum because of their previous training and experience.
Obtaining RN certification may help you land a higher paying job or help you move up the ranks at your workplace. The knowledge and skills you acquire from your LPN to RN degree program may also help to make you a strong job candidate in the field, as demand for RNs continues to grow.
Employment of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is projected to grow 11% from 2018 to 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). By contrast, employment of registered nurses will increase by 12% during the same time period. Registered nurses will be needed to serve, support and educate the aging population, those in long-term care facilities, and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity.
LPN to RN requirements differ depending on which program a student is applying to. Generally, applicants need a high school degree or a GED, and need to fulfil the minimum GPA requirements set by the school. Some schools may also require applicants to have completed a certain number of clinical hours to be considered for admission. The clinical hour requirement is determined by the student’s state licensing board. Prospective students must ensure that their LPN license is in good standing.
Students considering an LPN to RN bridge program should also have some required general academic courses under their belt. Required courses include Math, Biology, Psychology and English. Prior to starting a program, students must pass an entrance exam such as the National League for Nursing Pre-Admission Examination.
LPN to RN Curriculum
LPN to RN programs consist of a range of core classes that cover areas such as anatomy, microbiology, chemistry, physiology, behavioral science and more. Through your coursework, you will learn how to conduct thorough research.
As a student, you will have opportunities to explore specializations such as pediatrics, depending on your interests.
Programs include practical clinical experience, which is invaluable to your career. Generally, most online programs will require anywhere between 200 and 500 practical clinical hours. These could be carried out in hospitals or clinics, or other specialized faculties tied to your interests.
What to Expect
You can expect your nursing knowledge and skillset to grow. An online LPN to RN program often mirrors those offered in-person. You will likely take the same classes as students based on campus. Your classes could be in real-time or previously recorded. Though there is some flexibility when it comes to scheduling, the online program still requires dedication and hard work.
What Can I Do With an LPN to RN?
There are many positions you can work in once you become RN certified. Registered nurses can work in physicians’ offices, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, small, private clinics, major research hospitals or ambulatory settings. They can also be employed in military facilities, home care facilities and schools. Within these settings, an RN can assume the following roles and more:
- Patient Educator
- School Nurse
- Public Health Nurse
- Neonatal Nurse
LPN to RN Salary
Both LPN and RN salaries vary widely. Location, practice setting, and employers can impact how much you make a year. When researching earning potential, keep these factors in mind. The median annual salary for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is $46,240, according to BLS salary data from May 2018. The top 10% of LPNs and LVNs earn more than $62,160. Registered nurses make considerably more. As of 2018, the median annual wage for RNs is $71,730, with the top-paying industry being the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing field. The mean annual wage for RNs employed in this field is $95,400.
LPN to RN Program Accreditation
A degree from a program that hasn’t been accredited may or may not eliminate your chances of being considered for a job or advancing in your career. But enrolling in an accredited program is a good way to try and prevent potential pitfalls in the hiring process. In some ways, a degree from an accredited program is a sign to employers that you have received high-quality education and training to prepare you for practice in the field.
The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education provide accreditation to schools nationwide. To receive accreditation, a school must meet the standards stipulated by the accrediting body.
How Much Does an LPN to RN Cost?
Cost depends on the school you choose to attend. Whether you’re getting an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree can also determine expense. Similarly, a program at a private college or a state school as an out-of-state student could be more expensive than a state program for a student residing in-state.
Students in need of scholarships and grants to supplement their education, can explore our comprehensive list of nursing financial aid resources.
How long does it take to become an RN?
It depends on whether you are pursuing an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree program. An LPN to RN program can take anywhere between two and four years.
What is the difference between an LPN vs RN?
An LPN has graduated from a one-year, certificate program that equips them with the skills to provide essential care to patients and assist physicians and RNs in carrying out healthcare-related tasks.
An RN tends to be more involved in direct patient care and has decision-making responsibilities. RNs also manage other nurses. RNs have earned either an associate or a bachelor’s degree and may earn more than LPNs.
Do you need a BSN for a LPN to RN program?
You don’t need a BSN for an LPN to RN program. You can earn your BSN from enrolling in an LPN to RN program.