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Paramedic to RN Bridge Program Explained

Home > Paramedic to RN Bridge Program Explained
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Despite the stress, being a paramedic can be an emotionally rewarding career. Paramedics are some of the first responders to emergency situations and literally pull people out of life or death situations. Those who train for this life-saving job generally do so out of a strong desire to serve others and make a real difference in people's lives. However, the job of a paramedic is no holiday.

"[Paramedics] see the good, the bad, and the very ugly," wrote Deborah Belgium in a Nov. 8, 1999 article for Los Angeles Business Journal.

It's not surprising, then, that at some point in their careers, paramedics often begin to consider transitioning into a related health care job that could be both emotionally and financially rewarding, with some choosing a career as a registered nurse (RN). However, the demands of a paramedic's career may not leave much time for a return to school. The paramedic-to-RN bridge program helps with that transition.

The bridge program is considered an accelerated course, meaning much of the general education requirements must have already been met prior to enrollment in exchange for a shorter completion time - some schools meet only twice a week. However, because it may take up to two years of training and education in advanced medical skills to obtain the Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic (EMT-P) license, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012), a paramedic may earn an associate degree and satisfy the general education requirements for the paramedic-to-RN bridge program at the same time

As part of the bridge program, graduates are equipped to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) degree. Some bridge programs may offer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. You may want to check with your school to determine which degree programs are offered.

But why choose a registered nurse program after earning the EMT-P license?

For starters, registered nurses can work outside of an emergency response team, in a hospital with regular hours, and can earn a higher wage. According to the BLS, as of May 2011, the median annual wage of EMTs and paramedics was $30,710 per year, nationally (BLS.gov/oes, 2011), while registered nurses earned a median annual wage of $65,950 per year, nationally, during the same time (BLS.gov/oes, 2011). Additionally, the BLS notes that registered nurses in a non-24-hour setting kept regular business hours (BLS.gov/oh, 2012), which could be preferable to the nights, weekends and on-call work schedule of paramedics.

Outside of working in a hospital, some paramedics may enjoy increased job security or higher pay by becoming a pre-hospital registered nurse (PHRN). These nurses can give critical care to patients outside a hospital either as a transport nurse, flying nurse, or as a paramedic. In some states, such as Illinois or Pennsylvania, a certified paramedic and currently registered nurse can apply for PHRN recognition (EMSI.org) without additional testing or classes. While the work schedule and job-related stress might remain the same as for other paramedics, the salaries commanded by pre-hospital registered nurses may be higher.

Being a registered nurse may also have its own opportunities for career advancement. For students who complete the ADN program, there is the RN-to-BSN bridge, which allows nurses to pursue a bachelor's degree while practicing as a nurse. Once a BSN is obtained, master's degrees become an option that may allow nurses to qualify for positions such as advance practice nurses or move into administrative positions within hospitals.

However, there are some downsides to the bridge program. For starters, most bridge programs only award an ADN, which could become a barrier to employment as hospitals move to hire BSN-graduate nurses for clinical care. Some states, such as New York and New Jersey, are moving to require a BSN for all registered nurse licensing. While some programs confer a BSN instead of an ADN, an accelerated BSN program takes about as long to complete as a non-accelerated program with an associate degree -- between one and two years -- as the additional two years of education are not covered in other programs.

There are no online bridge or nursing programs, although some schools may have online general education courses in anatomy or medical terminology. This may result in a reduction of required on-site attendance, but some on-site attendance may still be necessary. You may want to verify that your program is approved by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc. (NLNAC), as state boards of nursing may require the completion of an accredited program.

Sources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, EMTs and Paramedics - http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/emts-and-paramedics.htm#tab-4

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Registered Nurses, - http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011 Registered Nurses  - http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291111.htm


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, EMTs and Paramedics - http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292041.htm


National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc - http://www.nlnac.org/home.htm


National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians - http://www.nremt.org/


Effect of Work-Related Stress on Firefighter/Paramedic - http://www.emich.edu/cerns/downloads/papers/FireStaff/Stress, Fitness, Wellness/Effect of Work Related Stress on the Firefighter Paramedic.pdf


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