Nursing Bridge Programs: How They Work

Of all the nurses working in the US today, not all of them decided to enter the field as soon as they finished college, and not all of them decided early on to earn master’s degree in the field.

There are many people who start out in another career and switch to nursing, and many who start out with an associate’s degree in nursing (LPN), and continue their education later. The way that they are able to do this is through a nursing bridge program that is offered by many online and campus-based degree programs.

The most common nursing bridge programs terminate in either a bachelor’s of science degree (BSN), or a master of science degree (MSN):

Nursing Bridge Program Advantages

The major advantage of a nursing bridge program is that you can have an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree and earn your next college degree in the field without going through a full three or four year college program. They are particularly designed for professionals who are RNs and hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in another field but wish to earn their graduate degree in nursing. Or, they are ideal for those who are an LPN with an associate’s degree and want to earn their BSN or even MSN.

A good nursing bridge program will allow you to gain both the knowledge and skills that you need to earn your master’s degree, and to become a nurse in a higher paying specialty, such as a certified nurse practitioner.

Online Bridge Program Advantages

One of the other major advantages of many bridge programs today is that many of them can be completed online, and many without taking the GRE exam. Distance learning obviously is more time efficient and is the fastest way to earn your bridge program nursing degree. An online bridge program is the best solution for someone who currently is an LPN who wants to become an RN with a bachelor’s degree, or an RN who wants to earn their Master of Science in Nursing.

With so much of your studying being online, you will have a lot of flexibility in your schedule, access to your professors, and the types of courses you take.

With an online bridge program, you also will not usually need to commute. You can take your online RN or MSN classes after work. In some programs, you can take the classes on your own whenever you wish – asynchronous. And in others, you will need to get online with your professor and classmates and take the class together – synchronous.

Selecting a strong online nursing bridge program is a great time and money saver: You do not need to retake any classes that has material you already studied before. This means you will be able to become an RN faster, or earn your MSN quicker.

Lab and Clinicals Information

Anyone who earns a nursing degree, whether it is a BSN or an MSN, will need to complete clinical and lab work as part of their degree. In a traditional program, you will do this is the area in which you are taking your classes. In an online program, you will do clinicals and lab work in the area in which you live.

However, one of the advantages of many nursing bridge programs is that you can often use your previous nursing experience to count for your clinical and lab work for your degree. You will find that this can save you a good deal of time in earning your new nursing degree. Be sure to check with your nursing program advisor on what credit you can earn for your previous clinical work.

RN to MSN Bridge Program

One of the most common bridge programs is an RN to MSN degree. This allows you to go from your associate’s or nursing degree to a master’s degree in nursing. This sort of program is not for every nurse out there. You need to have gotten your previous nursing degree from a fully accredited program, and you also will need to complete some additional prerequisites, depending on the program.

After you are accepted into the bridge program, you typically will need to complete about 24 hours of bridge work before you start on the advanced master’s degree requirements.

Some of the common nursing bridge specialties that result in a master’s degree  in nursing include:

  • Nursing Leadership

  • Acute Care Practitioner

  • Adult Clinical Nurse Specialist

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

  • Public Health

  • Nursing Education

Another option is for you to have your RN designation with either a diploma in nursing, or an associate’s degree in nursing, and complete a bridge program to a Bachelor of Science in nursing. This is not as difficult or time consuming as a bridge program that results in a master’s degree. And, if you choose, you later can pursue an MSN if you want to specialize even further in the nursing field.

Whichever bridge program you choose, you can definitely increase your earning potential and move up the nursing career ladder by choosing this smart educational path.

Nursing Bridge Program FAQ

If you still have questions about entering a BSN or MSN bridge program, please review our FAQs below:

Q: Do I need to have a nursing license to participate in these programs?

A: Yes. If you are an LPN currently, you need to have your LPN license to work towards your RN designation as you earn your bachelor of science degree. You then will be able to sit for your RN licensing exam after you complete your BSN program.

If you working on earning your Master of Science in Nursing degree, you will need to already be a practicing RN.

Q: Should my online program be accredited?

A: Yes. You want any nursing degree program that you are considering to have proper accreditation, such as from CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education). Other good accrediting bodies include those sanctioned by the US Department of Education, such as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Having the proper accreditations will ensure that your degree program and your degree will be fully recognized by future health care employers.

Q: Do I need to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing to get into an MSN bridge program?

A: You will need to inquire with the specific university, but today there are many nursing bridge programs that are designed for people who have a bachelor’s degree in another field. You can earn your MSN by completing core nursing classes before moving on to the master’s level classes. Some of these programs are offered online, but be sure to confirm if your desired schools offers this type of bridge program.

Q: How are clinicals arranged if I go to an online school?

A: Your clinical site hours generally are arranged by you in your home area with a local health care provider. The site that you choose and the particular work will need to be approved by your degree program coordinator or supervisor. You generally will not need to be employed by that clinical site. As you complete rotations at that site, you need to have a supervisor report to your degree program supervisor that required hours are being completed.

Remember, you may be able to use your previous nursing work experience as an LPN or an RN to count towards some of your required clinical degree hours. Be sure to check with your program supervisor.

Q: Can I transfer credit hours from another university into a BSN or MSN bridge program?

A: You always need to confirm this with your particular university, but generally you can transfer a limited number of credit hours.

Q: How long does it take to complete a BSN or MSN bridge program?

A: This depends upon the number of classes you are transferring and how many classes you take each quarter. Many students will take 2-3 classes in their BSN or MSN.

This would mean that you would complete a BSN in 4-5 years, and an MSN in approximately three years.

All bridge programs will have a maximum number years that you can take to complete the degree. Check with your university.

Additional Bridge Options

  • RN Bridge Programs

  • LPN to RN Bridge Programs

  • LVN to RN Bridge Programs

  • RN to MD Bridge Programs

  • Paramedic to RN Bridge

  • Nurse Practitioner Bridge Programs

  • RN to MSN Nurse Practitioner

  • RN to MSN Neonatal Nurse

  • RN to MSN FNP

  • RN to MSN Accelerated Programs

  • RN to MSN Bridge Programs