How to Choose the Best LPN to RN Program

LPN to RN graphic two.

What is an LPN to RN Program?

LPNs across the nation seek to become registered nurses, and bridge programs offer the fastest route. A bridge program is a specialized program to help an LPN “bridge” their education to get RN licensure. There are two degrees to get RN licensure, Associate’s degrees and Bachelor’s degrees. Bridge programs either take an LPN to an ADN (associate’s), or a BSN (bachelor’s). There are a few differences between these degrees, which are highlighted in sections below. These programs were first developed after WWII to assist military veteran nurses in getting their degrees. Today, to get into LPN bridge programs there are several requirements.

LPN to RN graphic one.

  1. Students must have a state nursing board approved LPN licensure.
  2. Students must complete a small set of prerequisite courses.
  3. Students must complete a state approved background check.

When researching LPN bridge programs, there are two choices that you can go with. It’s possible to get an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree. Both degrees result in the same registered nursing licensure, assuming that the programs are accredited.

Nursing Careers Require Accreditation

LPN to RN graphic two.

Accreditation for LPN bridge programs goes through two organizations. The first is the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, or ACEN. The second is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, or CCNE. Accreditation is 100% necessary when choosing an LPN to ADN/BSN program. After graduation from an LPN bridge program, graduates are not automatically a RN. Students will need to apply for licensure after taking an exam, the NCLEX-RN. You will need to include a passing grade on the NCLEX-RN report, and a copy of the degree from your program. This is among several other things. The state licensure board that you submit to will always require a degree from an accredited program. Without accreditation, the application for licensure gets rejected.

The ACEN program criteria for an ADN is here, and their criteria for a BSN is here. The CCNE program criteria for BSN and MSN degrees is here. Important differences between ACEN and CCNE accreditation include:

  1. The ACEN only accredits ADN and BSN programs, while the CCNE only accredits BSN and MSN degrees. This should always be on your mind when applying because legitimate ADN programs will always have accreditation through the ACEN.
  2. The CCNE requires that “The mission, goals, and expected student outcomes are reviewed periodically […]” while the ACEN guidelines do not have a specific provision for reviewing.
  3. The ACEN has a fully outlined second standard for faculty and staff, while the CCNE includes their faculty and staff standards within the first set.
  4. The CCNE requires that “The curriculum is logically structured to achieve expected student outcomes.” whereas the ACEN requires that “Learning activities, instructional materials, and evaluation methods are appropriate for all delivery formats and consistent with the student learning outcomes.”
  5. The CCNE requires that “Academic support services are sufficient to ensure quality and are evaluated on a regular basis to meet program and student needs.” The ACEN does not have a resource provision for this.

3 Things Great LPN to RN Programs Offer

LPN to RN graphic three.

There are more than 1,000 accredited ADN bridge programs, and more than 750 accredited BSN bridge programs. How can you choose a good program when there are hundreds of them? Many factors make a program “good”. In March of 2012, a PhD student at Liberty University (Sherry T. Taylor) wrote her dissertation “A Case Study of Factors Leading to Student Success in an Accelerated Licensed Practical Nurse to Associate Degree Nursing Program”. There were three reported themes for program factors that help students be successful in an LPN bridge program.

  1. Established peer groups for support.
  2. Low faculty to student ratios.
  3. The presence of a one-on-one faculty/student relationship.

Factor 1: Great LPN to RN Programs Have Peer Groups

The first factor (peer groups) is on page 140 of the dissertation:

“Students noted that having peer groups for support during the beginning of the program was very effective at knowing when assignments were due. Many of the students knew each other from previous classes. Those students that didn’t know other members in the class, forming peer groups made a difference to be able to make connections with people that they could collaborate with.

A good bridge program will facilitate peer groups, and help students form relationships with each other. Group projects, study groups, and student clubs will all be present in a successful bridge program.

Factor 2: Great LPN to RN Programs Have Low Student to Teacher Ratios

LPN to RN graphic four.

The second factor (low ratios) is noted at the beginning of page 141 of the dissertation…

“Nursing faculty overwhelmingly applauded the low faculty to student ratio in the classroom and clinical setting. The low faculty to student ratio was noted to be responsible for the faculty being able to identify student or academic issues early in the academic year. Faculty believe the intensity in which they care about the student’s success contributes to the low program attrition rate.”

A good bridge program will have low student to faculty ratios. Small class sizes are ideal. When looking at bridge programs, future RNs will want to make sure to note this number down. The program with the lowest ratio should take priority. This number is usually noted on the program’s website. If it is not noted, a program advisor should have the number. It may also be a good idea to confirm the given number with a current student, if possible.

Factor 3: Great LPN to RN Programs Have On-on-One Relationships

The third factor (one-on-one) is in the middle of page 141 of the dissertation…

“The faculty were observed giving the students both small group and one-on-one guidance and instruction in the classroom and clinical settings. The faculty call the students by their first names, friend the students on Facebook, and spend quality instruction time with students before and after the designated classroom and clinical experiences. When each student begins the nursing program, they are assigned a nursing faculty advisor, who is responsible for monitoring the student’s success throughout the program.

LPN to RN graphic five.

Most successful bridge programs will assign every student a program advisor. It is important to note how many students one advisor works with, in keeping with the low faculty to student ratio. It is also important to note how professors treat their students in the program. If possible, you may want to sit in on one or two classes to establish what student/professor relationships are like.

Nursing Careers Big Debate: ADN or BSN?

Many LPNs and future RNs wonder which is better: an ADN or a BSN? Over the years, the differences between the two have become more subtle. There are many discussion threads explaining this on forums like AllNurses. There are some good ones on differences here, which is better here, and the job outlook for both here. A helpful chart summarizes the differences below…

Educational CostAverage Salary# of ProgramsAdvancement
ADN$10,000 to $50,000$22.79/hr1026BSN
BSN$70,000 to $100,000$24.50/hr754MSN

Both an ADN and a BSN are college accredited nursing degrees. The nursing education and knowledge will be almost exactly the same. Both ADN and BSN degrees follow the same nursing education standards. Both ADN and BSN degrees result in becoming an RN (registered nurse). Both have to pass the exact same test, the NCLEX-RN. Nurses with an ADN and BSN apply for the same jobs as new graduates, and typically work in the same places. Most of the differences in an ADN career and a BSN career come along later.

LPN to RN graphic six.

According to PayScale statistics, nurses with a BSN make $1.71 more an hour than nurses with an ADN in their first year. This is probably due to nurses with a BSN working in research fields, whereas this is less typical with an ADN. By advancing from an ADN to a BSN, you increase around $5,426 in yearly salary. By going from a BSN to a nurse practitioner you increase around $28,754 in yearly salary.

A nurse with a BSN can also become a nurse manager or administrator. Nurses with their ADN typically stay staff nurses. After receiving a degree, as an ADN it’s possible to move onto getting a BSN. A nurse with a BSN can go on to get their master’s degree, or advanced practice certification. There are also many specialties that nurses can look into pursuing. These advancement opportunities are shown in the helpful guide below.

A helpful chart explaining LPN to RN advancement.

The decision between ADN and BSN is an entirely personal career choice. The answer to “which is better” is dependent on the future RN’s career preferences. Both degrees result in a satisfying career, and RN licensure.

Ellen Garmon

About Ellen Garmon

Officially, I'm a writer. Unofficially, I connect people with each other in honest, unique, and beautiful ways.