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LPN to BSN Programs

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The health care and social assistance industry is projected to generate 5.7 million new jobs between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nurses represent the largest segment of the health care industry and licensed practical nurses (LPNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) and registered nurses (RNs) are expected to account for 880,400 of the new jobs (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). LPNs and LVNs perform essentially the same duties, but Texas and California use LVN while the other states use LPN, which will be used here to denote both nursing careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics attributes this 33 percent industry growth to medical treatment and technology advances and the fact that the population is living longer.

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy foundation devoted to public health, formed a partnership to "assess and respond to the need to transform the nursing profession," to meet the health care industry challenges anticipated by the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010. One of the four key messages from the report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, was "nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training" and "enter the workforce with a baccalaureate degree or progress to this degree early in their career." Both the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice and American Organization of Nurse Executives agree.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recommends increasing the number of nurses with bachelor's degrees to 80 percent and, in March 2012, provided $4.3 million in funding for the Academic Progression in Nursing program, which promotes advancing strategies to create a more highly educated nursing workforce.

LPN to BSN programs and RN career options

With the push for additional education for today's nurses, an LPN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (LPN to BSN) program can be a viable way for licensed practical nurses to obtain the advanced education that many employers desire. Most campus-based and online LPN to BSN programs are open to practicing LPNs who have completed a practical nursing or associate degree program and hold a current practical nurse licensure.

Some four-year colleges partner with community colleges to accept Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) graduates into an LPN to BSN program, accepting coursework to fulfill lower division requirements. Some colleges also allow students to obtain credit for prior learning by taking National League for Nursing Acceleration Challenge Exams. Associate degrees normally take two years of full-time study to complete and bachelor's degrees generally take four years of full-time study.

Program graduates receive a BSN degree and are eligible to take the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to practice as an RN.

LPN to BSN Bridge Programs

Programs normally require prerequisites such as math, chemistry, microbiology, human anatomy and physiology and core education courses such as information technology, psychology, sociology, English and writing. Advanced coursework can also include genetics, nutrition and statistics as well as nursing courses such as patient care technology, health care policy and nursing leadership and management. Online programs can be a convenient option for working LPNs but students should be aware that clinical practice is generally held on campus or at sites designated by the school. Some programs arrange for clinical practice at sites in the student's community.

RN Certification and Licensure

All states and the District of Columbia require RNs to have a license. Currently, 24 states have entered into a Nurse Licensure Compact that allows both LPNs and RNs who hold a nursing license in good standing to practice, either electronically or physically, across state lines in any "compact" state without additional fees, subject to each state's practice laws and discipline. Contact individual state boards of nursing for specific state information.

Professional nursing associations and trade organizations also offer a variety of nursing certifications that demonstrate specialized knowledge and skills and recognize a nurse's experience in the field.

RN Responsibilities and Work Environment

RN duties vary based on what type of facility the nurse works in and whether or not they have a specialty, but can include recording medical histories and updating patient charts, performing and analyzing tests, administering treatment and medication through shots or IVs, consulting with health care professionals to devise patient care plans and explaining them to patients and families, and providing emotional support and patient education. RNs may also be responsible for supervising LPNs and other medical personnel. Nursing can be physically challenging and may require working long shifts, holidays, and/or weekends. Exposure to infection, radiation and chemicals can also be a concern.

RN Salary Information and Employment Outlook

The national mean annual salary for RNs in May 2012 was $67,930, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with those in the 10th percentile earning $45,040 and those in the 90th percentile earning $94,720 (bls.gov/oes, 2013). The job outlook is projected to be faster than average at 26 percent between 2010 and 2020 (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).

Sources:

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, "Fact Sheet: Creating a More Highly Qualified Nursing Workforce"
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, "Nursing Shortage"
American Organization of Nurse Executives, "Press Releases and Statements"
National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice, "Nursing Education"
National Council of State Boards of Nursing, "Contact a Board of Nursing"
National Council of State Boards of Nursing, "Fact Sheet for Licensees and Nursing Students"
National League for Nursing, "About the NLN"
O*NET Online, "Summary Report for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses"
O*NET Online, "Summary Report for Registered Nurses"
The Future of Nursing
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 Edition, "Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocation Nurses"
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 Edition, "Registered Nurses"
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012, "Registered Nurses"
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012, "Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses"
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 Edition, "Overview of the 2010-20 Projections"


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