RN-to-BSN program guide
Introduction to RN-to-BSN programs
There are several educational pathways to a career as a registered nurse (RN). The majority of them will prepare you for the exam set by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).
The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a stand-alone degree that you can complete full time to become an RN. However, many universities provide RN-to-BSN programs. This option means RNs who already have a license can complete this course in less time. It may mean you can continue to work while studying.
Specific settings, such as military hospitals or private clinics, choose to employ nurses who have earned a BSN.
RNs who have completed a Diploma in Nursing or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) will likely want to consider what type of nurse they want to become. The benefits of continuing education can impact the quality of care given. A researcher from the University of Michigan discovered that increasing the proportion of nurses with a full degree by 10% in a hospital unit lowered the odds of patient mortality by 10.9%.
By earning this degree, you may find that it gives a broader range of career opportunities. Specific settings, such as military hospitals or private clinics, choose to employ nurses who have earned a BSN. More senior positions might require this qualification too.
RN-to-BSN program requirements
The RN to BSN degree is specifically designed for existing RNs who have earned a diploma or an ADN from an accredited school.
GPA requirements vary depending on the school. It’s typical to see a minimum of 2.0 or 2.5 grade point average (GPA) for RN-to-BSN programs. Many colleges and universities may require at least a C grade in nursing prerequisite courses and a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or greater.
You’ll need to have your RN license, and there shouldn’t be any action pending. A criminal background check is typically required. These programs are aimed at RNs who are currently practicing. Often there’s a minimum requirement to work 30 hours a week. However, schools may offer alternative routes.
The prerequisite courses for this degree include microbiology, chemistry, statistics, anatomy and physiology, psychology, and sociology or anthropology. You’ll usually need to submit an application on the university’s website at least one semester before you plan to start.
Before you hear back from the college of your choice, it might ask you for a letter of recommendation, a certificate of your vaccinations, or proof you meet other requirements. Most schools respond a month or 2 after the deadline.
Accredited schools and programs
While RN-to-BSN curricula might vary, it’s essential to understand the benefits of an accredited school’s program. A degree with certification from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) may use a specific framework that covers the core competencies of a role in nursing. If you graduate from an educational institute that isn’t accredited, it could prevent you from taking the exam to become an RN.
Accrediting bodies review teaching methods, content, and student services.
You may wonder how you’ll know your course is from a certified school. The university or college you apply to should display information, including the accrediting organization’s initials, on the program page. You can also use the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) website to search for programs at these institutions.
Certification of a school offering a nursing degree is crucial. It means that the course quality is held to a particular standard. Accrediting bodies review teaching methods, content, and student services. This evaluation is beneficial to you as a student, as it indicates whether a program can meet your needs.
Accredited programs are generally peer-reviewed. The aim is to have programs that enhance the nursing profession and, consequently, the care given by BSN-RNs.
Offline or online program?
There are 3 ways you can undertake an RN to BSN program. They are online, offline, and hybrid classes. You’ll find that a large number are offered digitally. The other 2 options are a useful solution if you think you’ll benefit from the structure and motivation of a dedicated learning environment.
Offline courses are held solely at the educational institution, whereas hybrid programs have a mix of online and physical classes.
However, the online course might be the most appropriate option for the RN to BSN program. Since it’s aimed at RNs who have started their careers, this program enables professionals to keep working while studying.
Online study provides flexibility in hours and study time and removes any university travel time. You can fit your program around your working hours while still advancing your education at your own pace. As you’ll already benefit from practical experience on the job, there’s less need for hands-on classes. This way of learning also suits those with family commitments.
Before you decide to enroll in an RN-to-BSN program to upgrade your qualification, you’ll want to know what the benefits are. Firstly, this type of bridge program helps you advance your education while you work as an RN. That means you could improve your career options while progressing with an esteemed degree program.
In 2010, the National Academy of Medicine recommended that 80% of RNs earn their BSN by 2020. This call for enhanced education was based on studies that show that BSN nurses are better prepared to meet the complex needs of an aging population.
New York has passed a bill that states that RNs should obtain a BSN qualification or higher within 10 years of initially receiving a license.
These actions point to a trend that employers will most likely prefer to hire RNs who have earned a BSN. BSN-RNs are eligible to apply to Magnet hospitals, a designation provided by the AACN that shows the institution’s quality. One of the requirements for them to retain this rating is the education level of their nurses.
It’s vital to consider what you will study in an RN-to-BSN program. Compared to an ADN, you’ll learn more about ethics and research. Most programs cover applications of technology in healthcare, leadership, and aspects like culture and aging.
As the RN-to-BSN program is aimed at RNs already working, you may have already gone through the licensing process. After you complete your initial study, the next step is to complete the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). It determines whether you’ve met the requirements to begin practicing as a nurse.
RN-to-BSN program components
The length of the program can vary. Some accelerated online courses might take one year. Otherwise, most take 2 years to complete. Since the degrees are flexible to fit around work, you might be able to learn over 4 years as a part-time student.
The classes build on the core nursing content of the ADN or diploma. The curriculum could include topics like anatomy, nutrition, leadership in nursing, and evidence-based practice. It aims to enhance existing knowledge to make you more proficient as an RN or could help you take on senior roles.
Many states, Magnet hospitals, and private institutions look to hire BSN-RNs. Once you’ve earned your degree, you’ll likely have the required qualifications for some of the more coveted positions, such as clinical nurse manager or research nurse. It could enhance your career path in your current workplace or make it more likely for a competitor to hire you.
District of Columbia
Projected growth (2018-2028)
The content of an RN-to-BSN program and the method of teaching can impact the charge. You may find that online programs are more cost-effective. Prices can range from $6,000 to $15,000.
For RNs who work and take this bridge program, there might be an opportunity to receive tuition reimbursement from your employer. A conversation with your human resources department could help you find out more.
You might qualify for funds where special consideration is given to those studying in an RN-to-BSN program. That includes grants like those from Nurse Corps, which provides financial assistance with a service obligation to work in healthcare facilities in designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HSPAs).
To determine if you qualify for federal student aid or can receive a national direct loan, you would need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
Further education opportunities
After your RN-to-BSN program, you may want to continue your professional development. One option is to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). This degree could allow you to specialize in a particular area, such as mental health or pediatrics. It can also give you a chance to practice leadership or education.
Other opportunities that could help you on your way to the top administrative or leadership positions are a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). The former could focus on research, whereas a DNP degree can prepare you for advancing in clinical practice.
National Council Licensure Examination
The NCSBN website for the NCLEX-RN, which is the exam to take to for your RN license
American Association of Colleges of Nursing
This site has factsheets about nursing, information about financial aid, and can assist you with your search for an accredited school.
Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
The website for the leading accreditation body for schools and nursing programs.
Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
This site is for a national accreditation body that evaluates schools and nursing degrees