Registered Nursing Programs

LPN vs RN

It is not surprising that LVN to RN program options are similar to those of an LPN program, however there are some considerations that LVNs should be aware of. An LPN is a licensed practical nurse. An LVN is a licensed vocational nurse. Although the job titles are not quite the same, the jobs themselves are the same. Whether a nurse is called an LPN or an LVN is dependent on where the nurse is employed. According to Concorde College, the term LVN is used strictly in California and Texas, while LPN is used throughout the rest of the United States. So, a student may be enrolled in either a practical nursing or vocational nursing program, but the end result is that the student will sit for the NCLEX-PN and receive their license to practice nursing.

LVN to RN Education Options

An LVN may desire to further their education; there are multiple options to do so. There are LVN to RN and LVN to BSN programs available; LVN to RN programs will allow the nurse to earn an associate's degree, while an LVN to BSN program will allow the nurse to earn a bachelor's degree. Career goals should be assessed when selecting the type of RN degree.

For the LVN who opts for an LVN to RN program, there are also multiple options.

  • Traditional programs: a traditional ADN program does not necessarily take into consideration that the LVN has prior nursing experience. The LVN that selects this program will be selected from a pool of other applications – students that may have just graduated high school, other LVNs, other healthcare professionals seeking a nursing degree, and other learners going back to school for a different degree. These programs are typically two years long with summer breaks, once prerequisites are completed. These programs are full-time which may be a downside to certain types of students.
  • Online programs: an online LVN to RN program is often desirable because the student can choose to enroll part-time or full-time. This allows the LVN to balance work, school, family and other obligations. The length of the program depends on if the student chooses a part-time or full-time option.
  • Fast track programs: a fast track LVN to RN program allows the LVN to complete RN education in three semesters; the semesters are fast-paced and back-to-back, with no summer break. This option is great for LVNs who are seeking to get their RN degree in a short amount of time.
  • Diploma programs: a diploma RN program is typically a hospital-based program. The programs are highly variable in terms of length. In addition, the program does not take into consideration past nursing experience; an LVN who enrolls in this program will be with all types of learners, most of whom have no nursing experience.

The abundance of options available allow the LVN to select a program based on their needs, from a fast-paced program to be completed quickly, to a part-time program that allows the LVN to continue to work full-time or spend a lot of time with their family.

Cost of LVN to RN Programs

Costs of an Licensed Vocational Nurse to Registered Nurse program are highly variable. The cost will depend on the type of program selected and what type of school is selected (such as a community college, public university, or private university). Often, colleges and universities have a tuition estimation calculator posted on their websites to assist the prospective student with figuring out the cost of their education. For example, Excelsior College has an online tuition estimation calculator that allows the student to select their degree program (ADN, BSN, MSN), select their military status and how many credits have already been earned, and a monetary value is presented. Find nursing school net price calculators, and for typical LPN to RN program costs, we suggest that you look at other “unexpected expenses” such as textbooks, other miscellaneous fees, and uniforms. It is a great idea to have a dollar figure in mind when selecting a nursing school, and using tools such as those listed above can certainly be helpful.

Nursing school is generally not cheap. When selecting and enrolling in a nursing school, it is a great idea to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see what types of financial aid is available to the student. In addition, it is a great idea to apply for scholarships. Scholarships may be available from the college, the community, and many organizations. If the student is already employed as an LVN, there may be tuition reimbursement options available. Sometimes an employer will opt to pay a portion of tuition if the nurse agrees to work for a certain amount of time after graduation. These are all ways that can make nursing school much more affordable.

Waiting Lists for LVN to RN Programs

The term “waiting list” is often associated with nursing school. While it is true that certain types of nursing programs do use the dreaded waiting list, there are options that allow the nurse to skip the wait list. A traditional program, a fast-track program and a diploma program will all use typically use the wait list, if these schools are attended “on-campus”. One option to avoid the wait list is to attend a school “off-campus”, such as an online school. While all online schools are different in their specifications, a lot of them allow an unlimited amount of students into their programs, provided they meet minimum requirements, such as a minimum GPA and certain prerequisites.

The typical reason that a waiting list exists is that the need for more nurses is higher than the amount of spots available. Put simply – there is not enough instructors to teach all of the students that want to become nurses. Although a student may meet the minimum requirements, there may be fifty other students who also meet and exceed these requirements, allowing these students acceptance into the nursing school. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that nursing-related jobs will increase by 71% between 2010 and 2020 – that's a lot of nursing jobs that may not be filled immediately due to nursing school wait lists!

Job Outlook for LVNs Becoming RNs

New graduate RNs in California are experiencing a conundrum, according to California Healthline. Employers in California are often requiring experience prior to hiring a nurse, although there is a definite shortage of nurses. This is leaving new nurses without the experience to fill these positions, while also leaving a lot of holes in the job market. This could partially be due to baby boomer nurses working past retirement age due to liking their jobs and not being ready financially to retire. In addition, there are hospitals in California that are requiring a bachelor's degree for hire; “…4.6% in 2011 to 8.2% in 2013… more than half of employers require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing for positions beyond that of Staff Nurse.” However, there is hope for new RN graduates in California; although newer nurses are having a difficult time finding work, the amount of employers hiring new nurses has been increasing yearly. “Expectations for hiring more new graduates during the period of 2012-2013 grew slightly over the prior year, from 21.6% to 22.3%, and continued to increase into 2013-2014, reaching 24.1%…”

Texas has over fifty transitional nursing programs that allow an LVN to continue for either their ADN or BSN. Programs range from online schools to schools in different types of population settings. The abundance of nursing schools in Texas may be in part due to the high need of nurses. Texas also has a booming job market in most job fields. In fact, Texas employs 187,290 RNs and 75,780 LVNs. It is also worth noting that Texas LVNs “…are much more concentrated in Texas than in other states.” What does this all mean? Texas is a great place to find a job as a nurse, whether as an LVN or an RN.

LVN vs RN Salaries

According to Nurse Journal, the average salary of an LVN in California is about $55,000. This is 7th highest in the nation. The average salary of an LVN in Texas is $49,000, which is 25th highest in the nation. Once the LVN becomes an RN, the salary increases incrementally. According to the same website, the average salary of an RN in California is $71,000, which is 8th highest in the nation. The average salary of an RN in Texas is $64,000, which is 20th highest in the nation.

As a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) you may be considering how to become a Registered Nurse (RN).  Like you, when I finished my practical nursing program I was faced with a number of options.  I could be content as a LPN, immediately enroll in an open enrollment RN program, begin a bridge program, or work for a few years and then either return to school or slowly class by class etch away at my RN degree.  Then there is the decision to pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and a Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN).  It’s a lot of big decisions!  I hope this article will help to equip you with enough pertinent information so you can make the best decision for your circumstances.  Let’s start by tackling the struggle between an ADN and a BSN.

RN vs. BSN

  • Length of Schooling: (Full-time Curriculum)
    • ADN can be completed in 1.5-2 years
    • BSN will require at least 3-4 years
  • Opportunities for advancement:
    • ADN
      • Variety of home health, hospital and office work environments to choose from
      • Charge Nurse
      • Clinical Instructor (at some institutions)
    • BSN
      • The Institute of Medicine is expecting to increase the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree to 80% by 2020
      • Work in specialty fields like forensics or case management
      • Faculty Teacher
      • Higher Administration than Charge Nurse

There are many other personal factors that weigh in on the decision but those are the major differences to consider.

Selecting a Program

In this section we will discuss the differences between online or on campus and specific program options available to you as an LPN.   Not contingent to a specific program each contain three basic components.   First, the didactic or theory component is imparted in the classroom (brick and mortar or online).  Second, the lab component is hands on practice but performed on manikins and with recourse materials, fellow students and nursing instructors aplenty.  Third, the clinical component is completed at a hospital where students get to interact with real patients.  While comparing online and on campus programs it is important to keep in mind that that no program can incorporate all three components and be 100% online.

Online vs. On-Campus Nursing Programs

  • Scheduling:

No nursing program will be easy on your life.  All will require a strict, tight schedule.  Later we will specifically discuss scheduling as a key to surviving a nursing program.  For now we will see specific considerations based on which program you choose.

  • An online program:
    • Is more flexible with scheduling
    • Requires less time
    • Demands self-motivation and discipline to complete assignments by their deadlines
  • An on campus program:
    • Schedule is set, while evening and weekend classes may be available
    • Requires more time (example: commuting to campus and traffic, etc.)
    • Provides some motivation and discipline by peers and frequent face-to-face interaction with instructors along with down time between classes available to complete assignments with fellow students
  • Cost:
    • Online ADN programs range from $28,000 like Baker College in Michigan to about $40,000 at Orion College in Florida (https://orioncollege.org/tuition/tuition-fees/)
    • On campus programs as discussed above range $10,000-$40,000
  • Student Interaction:
    • An online program is a more isolated program, although there is time to associate with your peers during clinical rotations and lab work. Keep in mind this time is constantly in demand by patients and the opportunity to learn.  It is not designed or provided for student interaction.
    • An on campus program allows more time to foster relationships with fellow students and instructors. In “A Case Study of Factors Leading to Student Success in an Accelerated Licensed Practical Nurse to Associate Degree Nursing Program” performed at Liberty University the research showed “that faculty-student relationships, and support from peer nursing students are important factors in students’ being successful.”  Specific factors related by the students was the “confidence needed to continue in the program” and help from fellow students to complete assignments on time.

Factoring your individual learning style and demands on your personal time you can choose which option is best for you.  In addition to online and on campus courses there are also variations available to you as an LPN.

LPN to RN Program Options

LPN to ADN Bridge Program

A bridge program is tailored to a LPN obtaining their ADN degree.  This takes into account your previous medical training and work experience.

  • Length:
    • 1-1.5 years for an ADN and 2-3 years for a BSN
  • Pros:
    • Some programs are hybrid online option with multiple start dates every academic year
    • Specific focus given to honing critical thinking and working autonomously
    • Potentially able to test out of some courses and obtain clinical credits based on work experience
  • Cons:
    • Some bridge programs are integrated with the open enrollment ADN program just with a later start date, which means if you are not accepted it may be too late to enroll in another program in the same academic year
    • Competitive application process, instead of competing with a general admission pool you are only compared to other LPNs

Accelerated LPN to ADN Nursing Programs

An accelerated nursing program is designed for individuals with a non-medical degree (bachelors or higher) who would like to obtain their BSN or MSN.  If obtaining your LPN was a career change this might be a great option for you!

  • Length:
    • Accelerated baccalaureate program requires 11-18 months, or 3-4 semesters
    • Accelerated master’s degree program spans 3 years, some programs offer a BSN at the conclusion of the first year
  • Pros:
    • Programs are tailored to motivated professionals and student body make-up is unique
    • Making use of your undergraduate education to support advancement in another career
    • Comparatively short amount of time
  • Cons:
    • Vigorous, taxing schedule
    • Some find it difficult to transition from the role of a professional to the role of a student
    • There is limited financial aide
  • Admission requirements:
    • 0 Grade Point Average (GPA) from all previous undergraduate credits
    • Due to the rigorous schedule students are encouraged not to work this is discussed as part of the admission process
    • An in-person interview is required to assess available support systems, learning abilities related to this unique learning environment and course specific evaluations, for example the interview for a hybrid course will include a test of the applicants computer skills and independent learning ability

Open Enrollment Nursing Program

An open enrollment program requires neither a LPN nor non-medical bachelors degree and is open to a general admission pool.

  • Length:
    • See previous discussion regarding ADN vs. BSN subheading “Length of Schooling”
  • Pros:
    • Admission requirements are less ridged as compared to the other two options
    • If there were concepts during your practical nursing training that you had difficulty grasping, repeating the information can help you have a better grasp of them
    • You can work as an LPN while enrolled in the RN program and perform the skills you are discussing in class (as long as they are inside your scope of practice)
  • Cons:
    • Curriculum is geared to the general public, not requiring a medical license or previous college experience, as an LPN some courses could feel tedious
    • As an LPN you are paying money and spending time retaking courses that you have already completed
    • Considering the variety of a general enrollment student population as an LPN you might be viewed as a resource and not feel free to ask questions or, on the other extreme, as an outsider who doesn’t understand how overwhelmed the other students feel and who skews test averages, it depends on the class make-up

As you can see, there are many roads that will lead you, as an LPN, to your RN degree.  Make sure you check what options are locally available and then weight the pros and cons with your personal circumstances.

Online RN Degree Programs

There is an increasing demand for highly qualified nurses, and many LPNs are asking us if they can become an RN online. We can become leaders among our fellow nurses in many ways. One of which is taking steps to obtain an RN degree. We can take what we have accomplished so far, whether your nursing education was last year or fifteen years ago, and further our skills as nurses. We can develop our skills to serve our patients in a more knowledgeable way. Obtaining an online RN Nursing degree can provide you with more employment opportunities and higher income. Take a moment and ask yourself if your doctor would be able to provide the healthcare service that he/she does without having one or more nurses in their healthcare facility. Nurses are needed!

Why Choose to Become an RN Online?

There are very few disadvantages to taking an online RN Nursing program. The online learning experience can benefit your future when choosing an accredited program that meets quality standards set by relevant accrediting agencies. An accredited online RN Nursing program will provide more job opportunities in the healthcare field. Every time you start a new class in your preferred course you are ensuring more nursing opportunities for your future.

Time Management…We ARE All Busy

An advantage to completing your RN Nursing program online is the convenience it provides. An online RN Nursing program will take two- four years to complete. An exact course duration will be determined by you. With the help of an academic advisor you will be able to choose the program that is workable for your schedule and responsibilities. Family, work, and household responsibilities are every day demands that are taken into consideration when you decide to further your education. An online RN Nursing program will provide the freedom and security to make your educational experience workable. The pressure is solely on the student to perform the duties provided by the professor and institution. That being said, your time will still be your time.

First Steps

After making the decision to further your education you will need to research accredited online programs. Make phone calls to ensure the information is credible. Ask questions! After finding the school of your choice you will need to contact an academic advisor to start the orientation process. Financial aid is available for those who qualify. Keep in mind that most RN Nursing programs online are less costly than on- site programs. Filling out the financial aid application is easy. The academic advisor will walk you through it if needed. A positive factor in choosing to complete an online RN Nursing program is that there is no waiting list. Once the paperwork is filled out you are on your way to becoming an RN.

Let’s Get Started

There are a lot of concerns about the teacher/student dynamic in an online program. If you are wondering, yes, it can be beneficial to have a professor online. Although you cannot physically view the professor he/she is available by classroom interaction, private messages, classroom messages, emails, text messaging, and phone calls. Having a professor that you can contact at your convenience is a plus because on-site programs will have specific times and dates that you can interact with your professor.  The professor can still answer questions in a timely manner, assist in providing tutoring resources when needed, and available to answer questions and concerns despite face-to-face interaction. An online professor has the responsibility to interact, guide, listen, and “cheer you on” by providing positive reinforcement.

Online Coursework

The coursework that one will study is online through online tutorials, lectures, videos, and classroom. The coursework is designed a little different than an on-site campus because there is no professor in front of you. Despite the difference of how the coursework is delivered, the coursework is very similar to the coursework used in on-site classrooms. RN Nursing programs will require some form of hands on experience in order to receive the skills needed. It is valuable to seek a scheduled class or lab on-campus. Students should seek out internships or volunteer contributions within your community.

Sum It Up!

Can you become an RN online? Absolutely! Obtaining an online RN Nursing degree requires a little leg work to find a school that upholds accreditation and reputability. It also takes a little patience getting through the paperwork before beginning class. After that you are ready to start your journey to becoming an RN online. The interaction within the classroom is more open and personal despite the fact that fellow students and professors are not right in front of you. Students join together to make the classroom experience a positive one by interacting with one another. In some cases, teams are assigned which allows the students to interact outside the virtual classroom. Just as many life experiences have an impact on your life, earning an RN will have a dramatic effect on many aspects of your life. That first step will open many doors in the medical field.

Many nursing schools list their accreditation. Some schools are not accredited. Other schools have either state or national, but not both. BSN accreditation is something nursing students should look for as some employers do consider it when a graduate applies. It is an important thing that can affect a nurse’s future career choices.

What is Nursing School Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?

BSN accreditation means a school’s program meets all professional standards. The process is completed by an outside organization. The two US nationally recognized organizations include the ACEN and CCNE. A school is not required to be accredited and must seek the accreditation. Both the school and the program may be accredited.

Accreditation does matter. It can affect several aspects of a student’s education and career such as:

  • Ability to transfer credits to other schools
  • Access to financial aid and grants
  • Ability to take licensing exams
  • Access to jobs

Students attending schools that are not accredited may not receive the same level of education and experience. Employers prefer accredited schools as they meet all the necessary educational requirements to effectively prepare students for nursing careers.

Accreditation Commission For Education In Nursing (ACEN)

The ACEN was formerly known as the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. All levels of nursing programs may apply for accreditation. The process begins with the school applying for candidate status. This requires a fee and the evaluation of:

  • Faculty’s qualifications
  • Program’s plan of study
  • Resources used in the program
  • Evaluation plan
  • Catalog of courses

If candidate status is approved, the school has two years to complete the required accreditation process to meet ACEN standards. The school only receives accreditation after the successful completion of these requirements. Accreditation is maintained through regular visits and checks.

Commission On Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

The CCNE accredits bachelor’s, master’s and residency programs. Accreditation is voluntary. The organization’s goal is to improve the quality of nursing education through regular assessments of participating schools’ programs. The CCNE evaluates programs based on:

  • Missions and goals of the program
  • Performance of program
  • Utilization of resources
  • Integrity of the program

The organization relies upon visits, self assessments and peer reviews to maintain accreditation once it is given. The goal of the CCNE is to help schools grow through self regulation to consistently improve upon existing goals.

Differences Between CCNE And ACEN

The main difference between the two licensing organization is the CCNE only accredits bachelor and master’s degree level programs. ACEN accredits all levels of nursing programs from practical to doctorate. The ACEN also works more closely with government agencies, allowing them to provide student assistance programs. This includes financial aid, counseling and job search services.

Both have their own unique accreditation process, but both meet all national standards. One is not necessarily better or worse than the other. The CCNE uses more self regulation while the ACEN prefers to follow a strict set of their own guidelines. The ACEN is the older organization which means it has had more time to perfect its process.

Both agencies are constantly evaluating their own standards to improve the quality of nursing programs. Schools may choose either organization and may achieve accreditation as long as they meet all necessary requirements. They may even choose to switch between the two depending on the school’s needs.

Nursing School – Regional Accreditation

BSN programs can also seek regional accreditation. These agencies only work with schools in specific regions. The biggest difference for students is in how credits transfer. Credits from nationally accredited schools may not transfer to regionally accredited. Most nationally accredited schools accept transfer credits from both types.

There are currently six recognized regional agencies including:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools

Some schools may seek accreditation both regionally and nationally. National is more widely recognized. Regional accreditation is not bad. Students should carefully consider the following before choosing this type of accreditation:

  • Moving to another region during the program
  • Working in other regions
  • Transferring credits
  • Number of accredited schools in the region
  • Proximity to accredited schools

Nurses who move to another region in the middle of a program may have to start over depending on whether or not credits transfer. Some schools accept credits for preliminary coursework only. If a student transfers to another accredited school in the same region, credits should transfer.

Some employers base their hiring process on whether or not the student attended an accredited program. They often look for CCNE or ACEN accreditation first as the standards are more commonly recognized. Students should check with local employers to see if regional accreditation is acceptable or not.

Types Of Accredited Programs

Current LPNs should only consider accredited schools. There is not just one type of program that receives BSN accreditation. Many schools offer several options to best fit their students’ needs. The CCNE and ACEN accredit many types of nursing programs including:

  • Traditional LPN to BSN programs
  • LPN to BSN online programs
  • Traditional LPN to RN programs
  • LPN to RN online programs

Students may not find CCNE accreditation for some LPN to RN programs as these may not require a bachelor’s or higher degree. Look for ACEN accreditation instead. This applies to both traditional on-campus and online programs.

The accreditation standards are the same for online and traditional programs. For online programs, schools may also be checked to see how well they assist students with finding local facilities for the required clinical hours. These programs are also judged based on quality of software and resources available.

These programs are offered in varying lengths. These may range from one to four years depending on the type of program. For instance, accelerated and bridge programs are designed to fast track students from an LPN to RN or BSN. Accreditation is available for all types of programs regardless of length.

Surviving LPN to ADN Program

Once you have decided on a program the real work begins!  Let’s discuss five tips on how to survive this intense educational experience.

Benefits of Prior Healthcare Experience

Over the past 10 years, there has been a shift in ADN programs requiring prior healthcare experience.  A thesis paper written by a nursing student at The Ohio State University entitled: “Combatting the Nursing Shortage by Requiring Prior Healthcare Experience as a Condition of Admission to Nursing School: a Systematic Review” correlated data from 15 years of research.  It states, “The findings of this literature review reveal various advantages and disadvantages related to nursing students having previous healthcare experience prior to beginning nursing school.”  As an LPN you have prior healthcare experience, even if only from the clinical setting.  The following advantages and disadvantages are discussed in the article.

  • Advantages:
    • Increased confidence
    • Decreased levels of stress and anxiety
    • Exposure to the reality of the field leading to lower levels of attraction
  • Disadvantages:
    • Role confusion and treatment on the unit
    • Academic impact
    • Student perception of learning needs

As an LPN it would be wise to seriously consider these disadvantages and how much impact they will have on your personally.  This way you can ensure your previous healthcare experience will be a benefit and not a hindrance.

Time Management Key to RN Program Success

As discussed in the section Online vs. On Campus under the subheading “Scheduling”, all nursing courses are highly demanding on your time.  In a Case Study entitled “The Relationship Between University Nursing Student Classroom Engagement Activities and Academic Performance”, a percentage of students specifically identified that “time management skills attributed to their success in the nursing program”.  The question is how to do it.  Here are a few tips that I found helpful as I pursued my nursing degrees.

Be realistic and flexible.  You are going to get sick.  There will be an accident on your way to your clinical setting.  At some point your patient will complain of chest pain before you even get report.  Learning to be realistic with your expectations, whether it is a student assignment, a 12-hour shift or making a family dinner, is good for your mental health and continued personal growth.  Flexibility is absolutely necessary, however without understanding how to prioritize flexibility could be a liability.

Prioritize.  If you have mastered this as an LPN you are light-years ahead of most new grads.  At some point everything will go awry.  Learn to accurately prioritize for the situation.  In the hospital setting a vomiting patient compared to a patient with new chest pain might be less important, whereas at home a vomiting child might be more important then studying for a test.  Both cases require prioritizing a vomiting individual but the situation and circumstances are different.  When making your schedule, identify your most important things.  These will vary person to person.  As long as your most important things are completed at the end of the day, you can go to bed happy!

Know and respect yourself.  You are an adult.  If you are a night owl don’t get up to study at 4am.  If you don’t have to study for 3 hours to pass a test, don’t!  Make little rewards for yourself.  Occasionally, it can be food but that is a bad habit that’s hard to break.  Try to think outside the box and really make it rewarding for you!  Put your rewards into your schedule and respect your own needs.

How to Study for Your RN Program Like a Pro

Make the best use of your study time.  Your time is a precious commodity.  When it’s time to study, STUDY!  Turn off your cell phone.  Don’t have the television on.  Make sure it’s quiet or, if silence distracts you, play lyric free music.  Put a sign on the door asking your family to respect your study time or if possible, schedule study time when no one is home or awake.  Gather everything you need to study: a drink, maybe snacks, your books, your notes or tablet, etc.…whatever you need, gather it all before you start studying, so you can really focus.  If you still have your notes from your LPN program have them available to reference.

Take needed breaks.  If you are interested in scientific studies related to the vigilance decrement you can read this article published by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society in association with the U.S. Army or this one published by the University of Illinois.  If you want less scientific, here is an article in the Huffington Post or The Muse or The University of New Hampshire.  What is comes down to is we can only focus on the same thing for a little less then an hour then we need a 15 minute (or so) break before we can refocus.  If your studies of the human pathophysiology teach you anything you know we are all a bit different and you will have plenty of time to determine your most productive study:rest ratio.  When you rest, don’t just sit there looking at Facebook, get up and dance or stretch or do some dishes then get back to studying.

Prioritize.  At the beginning of each study session make a goal of what you need to understand better.  If you are preparing for a lecture this will be different than reviewing for a test.

Preparing for a lecture

Casually read the introduction to the chapter.  With the theme in mind read the subheadings.  As an LPN, ask yourself, “Can I explain how this works?” or try and describe the process.  Circle or highlight each subheading title that you don’t remember or can’t explain.  Cross-through or leave un-highlighted subheading titles you feel you have a grasp on.  To help make the distinction if there are review questions for a section see if you can answer them all in your own words.

For example:  Your next lecture is focusing on the Musculoskeletal System.  You are assigned to read a chapter about the management of problems related to mobility.  If you have been working at a long-term care facility you would probably highlight or circle the subheading title discussing clubfoot and other food and leg deformities in infancy and early childhood but cross through a subheading title discussing special considerations in the geriatric population.  However, if you had been working at a pediatrician’s office it might be the opposite.

Now start at the first subheading and if it is highlighted read it carefully.  Make notes if something is unclear so you pay special attention during the lecture.  If you have a hard time understanding the information reference notes from your LPN education or other classes, like Anatomy and Physiology (A&P).  If you find you’re A&P textbook has a picture or explanation you understand better make a note of that for use during the lecture or during review.  Pay special attention to information in the boxes.  If it is a subheading that you left un-highlighted or marked through read the topic sentence (which is the first sentence) of each paragraph.  This is a multi purpose task.  It allows you to be prepared for the lecture and allows your brain to place the information mentally on the page.  It also serves as a double check that you do understand all the information in that subheading without reading the entire paragraph.  If you read the topic sentence that mentions something you forgot, didn’t realize would come under that subheading or contains updated information read it and continue on.  If you don’t have enough time in your study session to do all of these steps just focus on the subheadings you have highlighted.

Test Preparation for RN Classes 

Start at the end of the chapter with the review.  Use the same method as preparing for a lecture.  If you can answer all the questions under one section don’t spend all your time on that but focus on the sections you can’t answer.  Use other review tools like NCLEX style questions or the accompanying workbooks for your nursing textbook.

When you are listening to a lecture indicate what points were made to stand out.  For instance, whenever one of my professors said, “You should review this before the test.”  I highlighted that in purple with big arrows pointing to it.  Then when I was studying for that test if I saw purple I spent more time on that point.  Either keep a separate notebook that you can jot down page and paragraph numbers or highlight in a color that is ONLY for test review or if you take audio notes mark it with a time stamp.  If your professors don’t give you an obvious verbal cue, pay attention to what they spend proportionately more time explaining.

Melding nursing school with your life is no easy task, but it is possible.  Even though your life circumstances may be different now, as an LPN, you have been through it once and survived.

In this article, we have discussed the many options open to you as an LPN along with lots of specific considerations.  I hope this information helps you to make the best decisions for your personal circumstances and helps prepare you to successfully obtaining your RN degree!

LPN to RN Online Program Tuition

Many LPNs want to know how much getting their RN license online will cost. Information on the cost of online programs varies widely. Estimates range all the way from $4,000 to $100,000. It can be very hard to find research backed information on the topic. We analyzed 71 top LPN to RN online programs to get information on the real costs of online RN licensure for LPNs. These schools were pulled from our own top list, US News & World Report, and Washington Monthly. Each of the schools we analyzed offer a purely online degree program. Most (78.9%) of the schools were public universities. Some (21.1%) schools were private. You can access all this information for yourself at our RN Program Rankings page.

The lowest cost online program is $5,164 a year at The University of Texas at El Paso. The highest cost program is $37,202 a year at Sacred Heart University. Most programs were at the low end of this range. The median cost of a year in an LPN to RN online program is $14,500 per year.

The graduation rate of an online program is a great way to get a quick look at the quality of the program. Higher graduation rates are typically found in universities with better student resources and low student to staff ratios. The graduation rates of the universities we analyzed ranged from 19.1% (University of Arkansas at Little Rock) to 82.4% (Ohio State University Main Campus), but most rates are around 52.8%, plus or minus 12.8%.

When we compared graduation rate to cost, we found something interesting. Graduation rates peak and plateau at around $20,000 a year. That means that graduation rates stayed about the same after hitting $20,000 a year for tuition.

After comparing graduation rates to cost, we found three schools that really stood out:

  1. University of Wisconsin – Madison, yearly cost of $15,317 and a graduation rate of 81.8%!
  2. University of Delaware, yearly cost of $14,748, and a graduation rate of 79.9%.
  3. Michigan State University, yearly cost of $13,836 with a graduation rate of 79.4%.

5 Tips for Saving Money in LPN to RN Online Programs

  1. Use the nursing supplies that you already have from working as an LPN. Scrubs, stethoscopes, penlights, bandage scissors, pocket guides, clipboards, organizers, and other supplies can all add up. You may already have some of these supplies from working as an LPN. Unless your school requires you to buy new ones, you can save a lot of money by using the supplies you already have. If you don’t already have some of the things you need, make sure to shop around for the best prices. Some nursing blogs like The Nerdy Nurse even have reviews of all the best nursing products.
  2. Shop online for textbooks instead of going into the university book store. Again, unless your program requires you buy books from their book store, you should always check around for the best deal. You can use websites like Text Surf to compare textbook prices on multiple websites at once. Many of these websites have textbook return systems. Returning textbooks for a refund is another way of saving money. Just make sure the ISBN number matches your textbook exactly, or you could buy the wrong edition.
  3. Only take the NCLEX once. This is a no brainer, but the NCLEX costs around $200 every time you take it. By passing the NCLEX the first time, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars. It’s worth it to invest in NCLEX study guides the first time around!
  4. Pay close attention to the fees that potential LPN to RN online programs charge. Many universities will tout a low yearly tuition rate, and then charge you thousands of dollars in fees every semester. When choosing the best program for you, request a full list of fees from the university first. That way you know what the complete price will be. You will save yourself money in the future by knowing the complete program cost.
  5. Create a budget for yourself, and stick to it. Many universities will offer loans and financial help for more than the cost of school so that you can pay for your living costs while attending. Without a budget, it’s easy to accept financial help from loans you don't need. By budgeting what you will need to live while going to school, you can see how many loans you need to take out. This will reduce your loan payment costs in the future.

What to Do About Lost Income During LPN to RN Online Programs

It is very difficult to have to  work and attend a university at the same time. Thankfully, the convenience of online classes offer enough flexibility for LPNs to continue working while getting their RN license. In fact, this is why many LPNs choose to enroll in LPN to RN online programs. It is still extremely important to have a plan, and to budget your time while attending a program. Always make sure to be realistic and practical when you are planning to attend school and work at the same time. You may think that it is possible to come home after a long day and study, but you will find it’s much harder in practice. Give yourself enough time to relax and re-focus on your goals after working.

Social Costs During LPN to RN Online Programs

Some students attend an LPN to RN online program at a university, work 40 hours a week, and barely get enough sleep every night. They often do not have time to hang out with friends. Be sure to prepare yourself for the social “costs” of attending your program. By managing your time efficiently you will have time for relaxing and socializing. Even if you can only go out with friends once a month – it's important to maintain social connections.

How to Pay for LPN to RN Online Programs

Self Pay

Every LPN to RN online program offers the option to pay for your tuition yourself. This option is the most expensive, but incurs the least amount of debt. This option is rarely used because everything is due up front at the beginning of the semester. Most LPNs do not have tens of thousands of dollars waiting around for education costs. However, some schools will work with you to create a payment plan. You will still have to pay the full cost of tuition yourself, but the amount is broken up into several payments. You will usually make these payments over the course of the semester. Depending on the program, it may be possible to only take one or two classes at a time. It is much easier to afford one or two classes, rather than four. Don't worry if you cannot afford to pay for your LPN to RN online program yourself. There are many other options available. These include scholarships, work study programs, federal student aid, and student loans.

Scholarships

There are many nursing scholarships available to cover the expenses of LPN to RN online programs. Helpful websites from nursing organizations like AACN offer comprehensive scholarship resource lists. We found 4 great scholarships almost any undergraduate nursing student can apply to and we have an LPNBSN Education Scholarship we are proud to offer.

1. TYLENOL Future Care Scholarship

Who can apply? Any student enrolled in a 2 or 4 year college healthcare program (including an LPN to RN online program) can apply. Must be a US citizen.

When can you apply? The application period for this scholarship lasts from early summer to late summer. In 2015 it ran from May 4 to June 30.

How much money do they award? 20 scholarships are awarded from $500 to $2,500. Thirty scholarships are for $5,000. Ten lucky scholarship winners receive $10,000. The scholarships are non-renewable.

Where can you apply? Students can find application details on TYLENOL’s website, and in their FAQ PDF.

2. NURSE Corps Scholarship Program

Who can apply? US citizens enrolled in a 2 or 4 year accredited nursing degree program. You can’t have property liens or federal service obligations. They would conflict with the service contract you sign.

When can you apply? The application period runs all year, but you must start your program before September 30th of the year that the scholarship is awarded to you.

How much money do they award? Scholarship funds are determined depending on the program you attend. All scholarships cover full tuition, books, clinical supplies, and uniforms. All scholarships also cover a monthly stipend for personal expenses. The monthly stipend amount for the 2015-2016 year was $1,316 before taxes.

Where can you apply? All application and service contract information is on the HRSA.gov website. The scholarship requires you to sign a service contract. That means that after you graduate and pass the NCLEX, you agree to work at an HRSA approved healthcare facility for 1 to 4 years.

3. Giva Nursing Student Scholarship

Who can apply? All students, currently enrolled either full or part time in an accredited nursing program in the United States or Canada are eligible to apply. The candidate must be enrolled and active as a student at the time of the application.

When can you apply? Applications are accepted all year. The award cycle deadlines are September 1st and March 1st. You can only apply once a year.

How much money do they award? Scholarship winners are awarded $1,000.

Where can you apply? Applications are only accepted virtually via email. Instructions for applications are given here.

4. Tafford Medical Scholarship

Who can apply? All applicants must be enrolled in an accredited nursing school, be 18 years of age and reside in the United States.

When can you apply? New enrollment for this scholarship is beginning in the Fall of 2015.

How much money do they award? The scholarship award is $500 in cash.

Where can you apply? A convenient application request form is offered on the Tafford website.

Work Study Programs

Most public and some private universities offer federal “work study” awards. You need to speak with your program’s financial aid office to find out if your university gives work study. Work study programs allow students to work part time while going to school. The amount that you receive for your work depends on their federal award amount, and the job that you do. Jobs can be on or off campus. Federal regulations limit the amount of hours you can work depending on your award amount and your school's preferences. Jobs are given based on your area of study. You can opt in to receive a work study award while filling out your Federal Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA.

Federal Student Aid

 

The Federal Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA, is an application that US college students can fill out. The US Department of Education then determines your eligibility for school funding. You can fill out the FAFSA with help in your school’s financial aid office. You can also fill it out yourself on the FAFSA.GOV website. The most common school grant is the Pell Grant. The maximum award amounts change yearly. For the 2015–16 school year the maximum Pell Grant award is $5,775. The actual amount that you receive depends on several things. This includes financial need, cost of attendance, enrollment status, and how long you plan to attend school. You can see all of this information and more on the StudentAid website.

Student Loans

Student loans are a final choice for paying for your LPN to RN online education. Student loans are sometimes offered by the university that you attend. Usually, the US federal government awards loans directly to students. These loans are determined after filling out your FAFSA. There are two types of federal student loans: direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized.

Direct subsidized loans are offered to students who show financial need on their FAFSA. The US Department of Education pays all loan interest while you are in school, for 6 months after you graduate, and during any periods of deferment.

 

They offer unsubsidized loans to all students regardless of financial need on their FAFSA. You are responsible for the full amount of interest after you accept the loan, even while in school. If you choose not to pay the interest while in school, you will be required to pay the interest after you graduate. The interest accumulates while you go to school, and is capitalized. That means you’re not paying interest on just the initial loan. You are paying interest on all interest charged while you were in school PLUS the initial loan amount.

It is in your best financial interest to accept only subsidized loans. However, this is not an option for all students. Some LPN to RN online programs cost more than what you can cover. Sometimes your scholarships, your grants, and your subsidized loans still aren't enough. If this is the case, it is in your best interest to accept all loans offered to you.

Research Based Tips for Successful Nursing Program Application & Graduation

blue image with text about nursing qualitiesEvery semester, future nurses face one question as they fill out applications: what can I do to get into this program? It's a hard question to answer, even with all of the nursing school tips available. Every program seems to want something different from it's potential students. There are a few key qualities that application committees see in successful applicants. These qualities don't guarantee entry, but they are what most great nursing schools look for in their applicants. Why? Because they have been proven to predict success in a nursing school program. These key factors are…

  1. A consistently high GPA.
  2. High amounts of internal motivation to obtain a degree.
  3. Strong support systems (family, friends, etc).
  4. Active participation in related student activities.

You Can Address Gaps in Your Nursing School Application

It is important to note here that not all these qualities are necessary to get into a great nursing program. If you don't meet all four, or even more than one of these qualities, there are still options and application strategies for you. Read on for our 9 nursing school tips on how to approach each of these key factors.

A High GPA IS Great, But What Do You Do If Yours Isn't So Great

image with information on graduation rates from nursing programsThe first student success factor (GPA) has been proven time and time again in a multitude of studies. There are two studies in particular that really show that a high GPA can predict success in a nursing program. The first study was published in March of 2012 in the Nursing Education Perspectives journal, published by the National League for Nursing. The study is titled “Bilingual Nurse Education Program: Applicant Characteristics that Predict Success”. The second study was published the same year in September, titled “Predictors of Students' Success in Community College Nursing Programs”. It was published in the highly esteemed Journal of Nursing Education.

The first study measured success by “program persistence” (whether or not students completed the program), and NCLEX-RN scores. It's important to note that this study was conducted on a special bilingual nursing program, that didn't include a minimum GPA requirement. This means that many incoming students were allowed to enter with a lower GPA than normal. It was shown that…

“Incoming students with relatively high GPAs (M = 3.2) were significantly more likely to persist through the entire nursing program and pass the NCLEX-RN exam (p < .05) than those with lower GPAs (M = 2.5).”

Thus, incoming students with a high GPA were more successful in the program and in getting licensure than students who had entered with a low GPA.

The second study was performed on 12 California schools. The first six schools were intervention colleges, and the second six were matched-pair control colleges. The two research questions sought to find predictors of graduation, and predictors of graduating on time. It was shown that…

  • LPN to RN in as Few as 14 to 18 MonthsIndiana State University

    LPNs earn your ASN or BSN degree online in ½ the time and cost of traditional programs. With No Waiting List to get started, Instructor Led Program Online or Local Classrooms, 92% Pass Rate on Exams, and Low Cost financing options available, this is the great way for LPNs and LVNs to earn your Associates or Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and your RN license.

“Results of the logistic regressions indicated on time and any-time graduations were predicted by higher grade point averages in pre nursing and science. Higher pre nursing grades are positive predictors of graduation; improvements in performance prior to commencing nursing education should improve student success.”

Students that scored well and had a high GPA in classes before entry into their nursing program were more likely to graduate according to this study.

So what can you do if you have a less than stellar GPA?

Tip 1: Raise Your GPA

Raising a GPA is always easier said than done, but it will pay off in the end. There are a two steps to this plan.

Figure out where you are struggling. Talk to school counselors, get tutoring, create new study plans, and eliminate personal distractions.
Re-take classes strategically. Sometimes a school will agree to replace your grades if you retake a class. This means retaking pre-nursing courses for a higher science GPA, if that is where you are struggling.

Tip 2: Explain Your Situation

Sometimes students simply get into bad situations. Chronic illness, a death in the family, and job loss are just a few examples of the many situations that can lead to a low GPA. Nursing school applications committees will understand if there is just one or two “off” semesters on your record, as long as as you are able to explain the extenuating circumstances. Sometimes it is okay to include this in your application essay, and other times it’s more appropriate to send a separate letter. You will need to discuss this with your potential program’s admissions counselor or recruiter.

Support and Motivation During Your Nursing Program

quote image with blue background and textThe last three student success factors were published in a major dissertation, written by Sherry T. Taylor for Liberty University in March of 2012. Taylor's paper, “A Case Study of Factors Leading to Student Success in an Accelerated Licensed Practical Nurse to Associate Degree Nursing Program”, focused on an LPN to RN (ADN) program specifically. She interviewed new graduates and program faculty to find common themes. Her research question, “Which personal factors, reported by graduates and nursing faculty may help students be successful in the LPN to ADN program?” brought up three major themes. Each of these themes is a key factor.

The first two factors (motivation, support) are reported on pages 141 and 142 of the dissertation…

“The graduates recognized that their own internal motivation to obtain a college degree and having a strong support system were the two main personal factors that contributed to their success. Graduates mentioned their sense of pride at being the first in their family to graduate from college and to advance their education. Graduates desired to receive the applause of their family and friends for their commitment to further their education. In addition to their own internal motivation, having a strong support system was also influential in their success. Graduates identified members of their family and their spouse as key components of their support system.”

To put it simply, a successful nursing student needs internal motivation, and external motivation. The successful nursing student applicant will have a very strong drive to succeed, and a sense of pride for their education and achievement. The successful nursing student applicant will also have family, friends, and possibly a spouse that all want to see them succeed in their education and career.

So what if you don't always feel motivated to become a nurse?

Tip 3: Learn to Deal With the Unexpected

How can a student plan for the unplanned challenges a nursing program presents? By keeping an open mind. Nursing students should always remember that nursing programs are very difficult. There will be many times where a student is presented with a problem that they’ve simply never seen before. Through striving to be open minded and flexible throughout the program, “unexpected” challenges create less stress. Future nursing students should expect to be overwhelmed, and prepare themselves mentally to handle it.

Tip 4: Create a Support Network With Other Students

It is vitally important to a nursing student's success to network with fellow students and professors. For example, study groups, tutoring sessions, and review meetings with professors are all great ways to network outside of a team project. This is a unique challenge for nursing students who are introverted or independently minded. Even extroverted students may find this a challenge in a difficult program where so much of their time is taken up by homework and studying. However, creating a support network is absolutely necessary for success, so make sure you look for one.

Tip 5: Overcome Barriers to Success and Access

Every nursing student has unique challenges in their life that create barriers to graduation and licensure. It is absolutely crucial that students recognize and overcome these challenges. Prior to entry into the program, students should identify and create lists of personal challenges they will face that create barriers to success and access. For example, an LPN entering into a bridge program will need to make the decision to work part time, full time, or not at all during their degree and then plan appropriately.

The Importance of Participation During Your Nursing Program

blue image with info on preparing to succeed in nursing schoolThe third factor (participation) is reported on page 142 of the dissertation…

“During the observation of the classroom and clinical experiences, the student’s level of motivation was measured by their initiative to increase their nursing knowledge, and the student’s percentage of attendance in lecture and clinical rotations. The students were seen to be actively participating in classroom discussions, broadening their knowledge by looking up content items online for further information, and replying to critical thinking questions posed by the nursing faculty. The graduates also agreed, on the survey, that it was beneficial for their learning to attend classroom lectures. The document analysis revealed that current students and graduates had absences that remained well below the established program limit.”

This success factor was established through reporting done by Taylor, rather than through interviews. It was shown that successful graduates actively participated in class discussions, took initiative in their learning, and were almost never absent. In a pre-nursing program environment, this success factor would translate into the applicant showing initiative through volunteer activities, and a low absence rate in their pre-nursing program classes.

So what if you're shy?

Tip 6: Post on Forums

Create and participate in discussion posts on forums like AllNurses.com. This takes away the “face to face” factor, which is great for a shy student. It also creates a 24/7 support network – nurses from all over the world contribute and help!

Tip 7: Meet With Professors

Talk to your professors after class, or during office hours. If you’re too shy to ask your questions in class when everyone else is watching, write them down. Find the professor’s office hours listed in the syllabus. Arrange an appointment if possible. Any good professor will be happy to help answer your questions. Depending on the professor, you may also want to explain that you are too shy to talk during class – but truly do have a desire to participate. Often times professors will understand, and offer different ways that you can participate in class.

Tip 8: Talk to Group Leaders

Find one person in your group projects who you are comfortable talking with. This is a good start to getting to know the whole group. Ideally, this would be the “group leader”. After you’ve gotten used to talking to them, you’ll often feel more comfortable talking and participating with the rest of the group as well.

Tip 9: Join Student Clubs

Sign up for student clubs and activities you wouldn’t normally participate in. Sometimes the only way to get out of your shell is to jump right into social activities where people expect you to show up a lot.

Future nurses should keep each of these factors in mind when applying to nursing programs. Through establishing all of the above key factors, an applicant will not only look great on their application, they will be prepared to succeed in their nursing program. It's important that a nursing application shows that the applicant is prepared to succeed in nursing school. This point should be the primary objective of every nursing school application: to show that the student is adequately prepared to succeed and graduate the nursing school program.

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