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Nursing Bridge Programs: How They Work

June 3, 2020 | Staff Writers

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Nursing bridge programs support individuals working as nurses or nurse aides who already possess some type of nursing degree but want to move to the next academic level. Whether moving from an LPN or MSN, bridge programs build on existing nursing knowledge and make it easier and faster to earn a higher degree.

This guide explores bridge programs at several different levels. Interested students can find in-depth information about the different nursing bridge programs on offer so they can make an informed, educated decision about their next steps.

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

Nursing Bridge Program Advantages

Nursing bridge programs offer several key advantages over a traditional degree program. Some of these include the ability to save time and money, the flexibility to continue working while enrolled and the opportunity to test out of certain classes. Individuals who complete an online bridge program can also save time and reduce costs by avoiding a daily commute to campus.

These programs mostly serve individuals who have already worked as some type of nurse or nurse aide for a few years and now aim to take their career to the next level. Bridge programs exist at all levels — associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral — and can make it easier and faster to advance along a nursing career path.

Online Bridge Program Advantages

Online nursing bridge programs support busy professionals who want to earn an additional degree but lack the time to visit campus multiple times per week. Distance learning appeals to these students due to the flexibility provided.

Many classes operate in an asynchronous format, meaning degree-seekers can log in to watch pre-recorded lectures, communicate with peers and professors, and turn in assignments at times that work best for their schedules. Some courses maintain a synchronous format where students must log in at specific times to take part in live lectures and projects. Because many individuals who enroll in these programs already work as full-time nursing professionals, schools deliver most live classes at times that work with their scheduling needs.

Bridge programs help graduates compete for higher-level jobs. To explore what jobs exist for nurses with different types of degrees, check out Nurse Journal’s list of available roles. Interested individuals can also find information on the seven best online RN-to-MSN programs currently available and the best master’s in nursing online programs for 2020.

Advertisement NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured programs and school search results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.

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Labs and Clinicals for Nursing Bridge Programs

Like other nursing degrees, bridge programs require learners to participate in several labs and clinicals to gain advanced, hands-on knowledge and experience. Traditional programs usually work with students to identify a suitable hospital or clinic for them to complete the required hours. In bridge programs, schools typically allow learners to complete their labs and clinical hours at their current place of work. This makes it easier for degree-seekers to manage their schedules while completing professional and academic responsibilities.

To investigate how the lab and clinical requirements work at a prospective school, learners can reach out to the program director and ask for specifics.

RN-to-MSN Bridge Program

RN-to-MSN bridge programs enable registered nurses who possess an associate degree to earn master’s-level qualifications more quickly than they would if they pursued a BSN and MSN separately. These programs typically take 3-3.5 years to complete.

Common classes include health information and patient care technologies, healthcare environments and care coordination, health promotion and risk reduction, and evidence-based practice improvement. Learners must also participate in clinical practice rotations to build real-world skills. Students who already work in a healthcare setting can typically complete these requirements at their place of work. Common specialties for nurse practitioners include family, gerontology, and mental health.

In addition to providing advanced education and expanded learning opportunities, RN-to-MSN bridge programs also qualify graduates to take on positions as nurse practitioners and earn substantially higher salaries.

Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing Bridge Programs


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

    Yes. All nursing bridge programs require applicants to possess an active and unencumbered nursing license. Some programs also require students to possess a license in a particular state to enroll.


  • Should my online program be accredited?

    Attending an accredited online bridge program is one of the most important steps. Failing to attend an accredited program can spell trouble when transferring credits to a different institution, seeking advanced licensure and/or credentials, applying for financial aid, and competing for jobs.


  • Do I need to have a bachelor's degree in nursing to get into an MSN bridge program?

    No. RN-to-BSN bridge programs enroll students with both associate and bachelor’s degree qualifications. Individuals with an associate degree may need to spend more time to complete the program, but this option does exist.


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

    Distance learners already working in a healthcare facility typically complete clinical requirements at their place of employment. Otherwise, the clinical advisor works with students to find a suitable location near their place of residence.


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

    Students who completed credits in an accredited program typically find that their credits easily transfer to a bridge program. Individuals attending programs without proper accreditation may run into trouble, and may need to retake certain classes.


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

    The majority of programs take 3-3.5 years to complete. Students with existing credits — or those who enroll in an accelerated program — may graduate more quickly. Individuals who need to study on a part-time basis typically take longer.


Other Nursing Degree Program Options


Most Affordable Online RN-to-MSN Programs


Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)


Top Online Accelerated BSN Degree Programs


Best Online MSN Programs


Advertisement NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured programs and school search results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.

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