RN to BSN Bridge Programs

An overview of RN-to-BSN bridge programs, including cost information. Such programs allow ADN-educated nurses to more quickly earn their BSN degrees.
RN-to-BSN Bridge Programs

If you became a registered nurse (RN) by earning an associate degree in nursing, or ADN, you were able to hit the ground running with your career. Since it only takes two years to earn an ADN as opposed to four to earn a bachelor of science in nursing, or BSN, it makes sense that many people choose to follow this path. However, you may now feel like you are being held back by not having a BSN. Here's some good news: You are already partly done earning your BSN. Through an RN-to-BSN bridge program, you can earn your BSN faster.

Is Completing an RN-to-BSN Bridge Program Worth It?

Why would you want to earn a BSN if you are already qualified to work as an RN with your associate degree? As you have probably already learned, nurses who hold BSNs qualify for better positions and for more competitive pay and benefits. Some employers strictly hire BSN-educated nurses, so holding a BSN should open new doors for you. If you ever decide to move into advanced practice nursing, you'll need a BSN to be accepted into a master of science in nursing, or MSN, program. The same thing applies to earning a doctor of nursing practice, or DNP.

Since the improvements that go along with having a BSN are considerable for any RN, it is well worth it to return to school. Thanks to bridge programs, there is no need to start all over again.

What Should I Know About RN-to-BSN Programs?

Like many people, you may be a bit confused about how RN-to-BSN bridge programs work. The term "bridge" is used because these programs help to bridge the gap between two different levels of education and knowledge. ADN-educated nurses undergo less training because their programs only take around two years to complete. If you hold an ADN, however, you possess some of the same knowledge as BSN-educated nurses. Bridge programs allow you to apply previously earned credits toward general education requirements. Some programs will also take your past and current work experiences into account, translating them into credits that can be applied toward your BSN. Depending on the program that you enroll in and on your previous experiences, you can complete a bridge program to earn your BSN in as little as one to two years.

How Long Will It Take to Complete My RN-to-BSN Bridge Program?

A standard BSN program takes around four years to complete. About two of these years are typically consumed by general education requirements. While earning your ADN, you likely completed many of those requirements. When you apply to a bridge program, they will assess your transcripts to see which credits may be applied. This will largely determine how long it takes for you to earn your BSN. Clinical training is mandatory as well, but it may also be reduced by previous and current work experience depending on the program.

What is the Typical Tuition?

Since you are about halfway toward earning a BSN with an ADN in hand, it's natural to assume that an RN-to-BSN bridge program will cost around half the price of a standard, four-year nursing program. However, that's not really how it works. Most BSN programs require around 120 credit hours, and only some of those hours will be reduced by your ADN experience. The average cost per semester for in-state tuition at a nursing program in a community college is between $864 and $1,019, so you can expect to pay roughly that. If you have lots of credits to apply, however, you may be able to complete the program in a fewer number of semesters.

Is Clinical Training Required?

Just as you had to complete a certain number of hours of clinical training in your ADN program, you have to complete a certain number to earn your BSN as well. When searching for RN-to-BSN bridge programs, inquire about how they handle clinical training. Many times, bridge programs allow you to apply some of your work experience toward this requirement, so you have less to do. No matter how much experience you have, however, you will have to complete at least some clinical training.

Should the Bridge Program that I Choose Be Accredited?

It is absolutely essential to select an RN-to-BSN bridge program that has the proper accreditation. The only way to receive a legitimate RN license is by demonstrating that you have completed an approved and accredited program. This applies to bridge programs just as much as it does to regular four-year programs. Avoid trouble by sticking with bridge programs that hold accreditations from either the American Commission on Education in Nursing, or ACEN, or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, or CCNE.

Can I Complete an RN-to-BSN Program Online?

Completing a nursing program while working full time is a tall order. One way to get through it more easily is by signing up for an online RN-to-BSN bridge program. With this option, you will be able to complete much of the work on your own schedule and on your own terms. You won't have to physically be on a college campus on a regular basis, so you will have a lot more flexibility for handling your work and family obligations. However, you will have to complete clinical training at an approved facility. Different RN-to-BSN bridge programs handle this differently, so be sure to ask when looking around. Find a program that makes it as easy as possible for you to fulfill your clinical training requirement.

Just because you earned an ADN to become an RN doesn't mean that you are stuck with that forever. If you'd like to enjoy the considerable perks that go along with being a BSN-educated RN, consider completing an RN-to-BSN bridge program. It's the fastest, easiest, and many times, most affordable way to achieve this goal.

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