Nursing Bridge Programs Overview
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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?
How can you climb the ranks in nursing to make more money and get more respect? Nursing bridge programs give you credit for your experience as a registered nurse (RN) and can help you graduate quicker.
This guide gives you an overview of the advantages and requirements to get admitted into nursing bridge programs. Find out what to expect in a nursing bridge program, including types of bridges programs and clinical rotation requirements.
Nursing Bridge Program Advantages
Nursing bridge programs offer a faster pathway to a higher degree than a traditional RN program. Different types of bridge programs are offered, including RN to bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs, RN to master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees, accelerated BSN programs, direct-entry master's in nursing degrees, and MSN degrees for people without a BSN.
Nursing bridge programs often cost less and deliver flexible formats so you can continue working as a nurse. The shortened time line can translate into financial savings. For instance, instead of spending 2-3 years earning an MSN, a bridge program takes only 1-2 years. Sometimes, nurses can test out of courses, saving even more money and time.
Colleges offer nursing bridge programs for nurses at all levels and also non-nursing degree-holders. Nurses may hold an associate in nursing degree, for example, and want an accelerated BSN degree. RNs can also find MSN to doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs and RN-to-DNP programs.
Online Bridge Program Advantages
Working nurses can continue to earn a living by enrolling in online bridge programs, such as online RN-to-MSN programs and online MSN degrees. Programs function mostly online without requiring you to commute to campus, a cost- and time-saving bonus. You may work asynchronously, having lessons, quizzes, and lectures on hand, or you may meet live online during the evenings or on the weekends.
What jobs you can do with a nursing degree depends on the degree. Graduates of undergraduate nursing programs can become licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or RNs. If you hold a graduate degree, you can become a nurse practitioner (NP) working in a specialized area of nursing.
Featured Online RN-to-BSN Programs
Labs and Clinicals for Nursing Bridge Programs
Online bridge programs require online nursing students to complete clinical rotations in person. Some may also use digital clinical experiences to help train nurses to perform assessments, gather patient data, and interpret that information. However, digital clinical experiences do not replace in-person clinical hours.
Labs and clinical rotations give students hands-on experience in nursing. Clinical placements also offer the chance to network with other nurses and future employers.
RN-to-MSN Bridge Program
RN-to-MSN bridge programs give RNs the chance to earn both a BSN and an MSN in 3-4 years, an endeavor that typically takes 5-6 years. Usually, MSN applicants need a BSN degree. However, many RN-to-MSN programs accept students with active RN licenses and associate degrees in nursing — although specific admission requirements vary by school.
RN-to-MSN bridge programs offer different specializations, such as nurse educator or nurse administrator. You can also become a nurse practitioner, an advanced practice nurse who earns a median annual salary of $120,680 as of May 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you are on the nurse practitioner track, ADN-to-MSN (RN-to-NP) programs feature courses like contemporary nursing issues, pathophysiology, and pharmacology. The curriculum may also offer specialty tracks in family nursing, nursing education, or psychiatric mental health.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing Bridge Programs
Do I need to have a nursing license to participate in these programs?
Yes, nursing bridge programs generally admit candidates who are working LPNs or RNs. License and work experience requirements depend on the program. Often, nursing bridge programs only admit students who have a license in the same state.
Should my online program be accredited?
Absolutely. It is important to attend an accredited nursing bridge program to protect your financial investment. Nursing accrediting associations provide evaluations of nursing bridge programs to verify that they meet quality standards. Most importantly, you need to attend an approved nursing program to take the National Council Licensure Examination.
Do I need to have a bachelor's degree in nursing to get into an MSN bridge program?
Not always. ADN-to-MSN programs admit students who have ADN degrees. Nursing schools also offer RN-to-MSN programs for people who have non-nursing degrees.
How are clinicals arranged if I go to an online school?
It depends on the nursing school. Generally, online nursing programs require in-person clinicals. The number of hours required depends on the program. Faculty handles clinical placements for you, but at some schools students are required to find clinical placements on their own.
Nursing bridge programs may offer virtual clinical experiences, but they supplement learning and would not replace in-person clinical hours.
Can I transfer credit hours from another university into a BSN or an MSN bridge program?
It depends. In general, you can transfer credits as a nursing student if you attended an accredited school. The number of credits a nursing program accepts varies. Nursing programs often require that you complete a certain number of credits in house.
How long does it take to complete a BSN or an MSN bridge program?
Expect to see different time lines for each BSN and MSN bridge program. However, most BSN bridge programs can take one year, depending on the number of transfer credits you have. The fastest BSN bridge programs are 12-15 months. MSN bridge programs take an average of 3-3.5 years.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook. (2021). Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm
Page last reviewed December 5, 2022
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