If you’ve considered advancing your career by transitioning from an LPN license to an RN license, you’ve likely also considered whether it makes more sense to pursue a BSN or an associate’s degree.
And while it is possible to earn your RN by completing a two-year associate degree program, if you want to enjoy the broadest professional opportunities and the highest paycheck, a BSN is what you’ll need.
The shift toward the BSN as the unofficial standard for RNs is well underway in Pennsylvania, with many major healthcare employers now actively recruiting BSNs and encouraging their existing nurses to earn a bachelor’s. This is largely a result of the Institute of Medicine’s push to achieve an 80% BSN nursing workforce, along with a growing body of evidence showing better patient outcomes and better coordination of care when there is an increased number of BSN-prepared RNs on staff.
This effort is also backed by many state and national nursing organizations, including the Pennsylvania Organization of Nurse Leaders, whose position paper on the educational preparation of Pennsylvania’s registered nurses states that “newly licensed registered professional nurses should attain a baccalaureate in nursing within 10 years of initial licensure in order to practice.”
Fortunately, for practicing LPNs like you, many colleges and universities have begun offering an expedient and convenient path to an RN license and BSN degree, making it easier than ever to propel your career forward while meeting the growing demand for BSN nurses in Pennsylvania.
LPN-BSN program are specifically designed to recognize your past experience and education, allowing you to transfer credits in for an advanced standing in the program that reduces both the time it takes to earn the degree, and the cost. Plus, many are offered entirely online, allowing you to study whenever and wherever it’s most convenient for you, so you can continue to meet your professional and personal obligations.
Curriculum and Structure of LPN to BSN Programs
Just like a standard four-year BSN program, you’ll need a total of 120 credits of coursework and clinical experience that prepares you for your role as a generalist practitioner familiar with the needs of diverse patient groups in a variety of settings. However, thanks the transfer of credits, LPN-BSN programs only require you to complete less than 100 credits, which can be completed in as few as three years.
Admission into these programs requires a current and valid LPN license. Depending on the program, you’ll also be admitted on the basis of experience, particularly if your LPN license is more than five years old. Admission or placement in the program may also depend on passing a general skills competency assessment.
The transfer of credits will vary from one program to the next. You’ll find that while some programs will transfer a set number of credits based on your LPN license, others will require the transfer of credits only for specific courses. Still others will allow you to take advanced placement examinations in lieu of the transfer of some courses. In general, you can expect to transfer between 10-25 credits toward your BSN.
The curriculum of an LPN-BSN is similar to a BSN, as it consists of prerequisite courses, followed by a BSN core:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Intro to Psychology
- Intro to Sociology
- College Writing
- Medical Terminology
- Healthcare Informatics
- Nursing Care of Childbearing Families
- Healthcare Ethics
- Complex Care Across the Lifespan
- Nursing Leadership
- Adult Nursing Care
- Mental Health Nursing
Clinical requirements are part of the BSN core, and they include rotations in a variety of settings and with diverse populations. While many LPN-BSN programs can be completed online, you’ll still need to complete clinical experiences. The good news is that even schools in other states offering online programs are likely to have agreements in place with hospitals in Philadelphia and elsewhere in Pennsylvania to accommodate students in the area. It’s very common for students to complete clinical hours right at their current place of employment.
Just a few of the clinical sites in Pennsylvania include:
- West Penn Hospital, Pittsburgh
- Canonsburg Hospital, Canonsburg
- Saint Vincent Hospital, Erie
- Temple University Hospital, Philadelphia
- Riddle Hospital, Media
- Chester County Hospital, West Chester
How to Become an RN in Pennsylvania After Earning Your BSN
After completing an LPN-BSN program, you’ll apply for your RN license through the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing. Once you’ve completed the application through the online system (PALS), you’ll register with Pearson VUE to take the NCLEX-RN.
Once the Board has reviewed and approved your application, Pearson VUE will send you an Authorization to Test (ATT), at which time you will schedule your exam at a Pearson VUE testing center near you.
Employer are Incentivizing Education as a Way to Increase The Number of BSNs on Staff
Thanks to the push to produce more BSN-educated RNs, many healthcare institutions offer financial incentives to current RNs and practical nurses interested in returning to school to upgrade their credentials. Financial incentives may include everything from grants to tuition reimbursement to scholarships.
For example, Lancaster General Hospital is pushing hard to achieve the goal an having 80% of their RNs educated at the bachelor’s level or higher by 2020, and they’re putting their money where their mouth is. Lancaster General now offers full tuition reimbursement for nurses who earn their bachelor’s in nursing through their partner university, the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences.
Similarly, Westchester County Hospital in West Chester offers their healthcare employees up to $6,000 a year to advance their education.
Contact your employer’s human resources office to learn more about financial incentives that may be available to you for advancing your career and earning your RN license and BSN degree.