How to Choose the Right Online Healthcare Bridge Program (2024)

Let’s say you’re currently a medical assistant but have dreams of becoming a nurse. The only problem? Traditional associate or BSN programs require you to relearn what you already know, wasting time and costing more than you should pay for tuition. In this case, and for many other healthcare careers, an online bridge program may be the right choice.

An online bridge program is an accelerated degree where someone forgoes some prerequisites or courses due to experience or previous education in a related field. If you’re a current healthcare worker, you most likely qualify for a bridge program; the trick is choosing the right online bridge program for your future and previous education.

Types of Online Bridge Programs

There are various types of bridge programs, which makes it important to choose the right one for your education level and professional journey.

To clarify your options, here’s a quick overview of the most popular program types:

  • Medical Assistant to LPN: perfect for those who work as medical assistants, but would like to be licensed practical nurses. Typically, these programs take 12 to 18 months to complete.
  • CNA to LPN: if you’re already a certified nursing assistant, this bridge program could be a good fit. Most CNA-to-LPN bridge programs can be completed in 12 to 24 months.
  • LPN to ADN: licensed practical nurses can leverage these bridge programs to become RNs and get an associate’s degree faster. Often, an LPN to ADN bridge program takes 15 to 18 months.
  • LPN to RN: if you’re a licensed practical nurse who wants to take your career a step further, an LPN to RN degree, which results in a bachelor’s, might be a good fit. With most lasting two to four years, a LPN to RN program can be lengthier than other bridge programs.
  • RN to BSN: if you have your associate’s degree and want to get your bachelor’s, this type may be for you. Most RN to BSN programs last between 12 to 24 months.
  • RN to MSN: this bridge program offers a quicker route to a master’s in nursing for those who have either a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in the field. An RN to MSN program usually takes 12 to 24 months to complete.
  • BSN to DNP: if you have a bachelor’s in nursing and want to become a doctor of nursing practice, this could be a good option. With an average duration of two years, a BSN to DNP program can be lengthier than other bridge programs.

If you’re interested in a program that isn’t on this list, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a bridge program for it. Plus, the following three tips will work whether you’re deciding on a program type or between specific institutions.

Previous Education

The first thing to consider when looking at bridge programs is your current education level. Most likely, a BSN to DNP program won’t accept someone with an LPN license. When looking at different options, see which ones are feasible for you or would be possible if you took additional courses at a community college.

When assessing your previous education, you may also want to evaluate what type of courses you like. Do you prefer asynchronous modules you complete on your own or discussion-based classes? Do you like a hands-on approach to learning or prefer lectures?

Jot down a list of what you did and didn’t like from previous degrees and refer back to this list when looking at programs.

Comfort with Commitment

Different bridge programs require different commitment levels. Some, like LPN to RN will take more time while others, like RN to BSN, can be completed in less than a year. Before choosing a program, clarify how long you want to be in school, as well as how much time you can devote each week to your studies.

For example, you might find two LPN to ADN programs and while one takes longer to complete, students take fewer courses per semester than in the other program, making it easier to balance with work and other responsibilities.

You also want to pay attention to the price. Typically, the higher the degree, the more expensive the program will be, but price varies greatly between programs. Before searching for programs, jot down your budget and brainstorm any potential financial aid sources, such as employer reimbursem*nt or scholarships to apply for.

Career Goals

You’re looking at bridge programs because you want to advance your career, but that phrase means something different to everyone. Before committing to a program, journal about what your ideal job looks like.

It’s great if you already know your preferred license type, such as being a nurse practitioner or RN BSN, but it’s also ok if you don’t. For those still trying to figure that out, fill in these three prompts:

  • In my next role, I’m most excited to…
  • In my next job, I’d like to (lead or serve patients directly)
  • What my current job lacks is…

You can then refer back to the list of most popular program types at the beginning of this blog and see which aligns with your answers.

If a licensed RN wrote, for example, that they are excited to increase their impact and salary, would like to serve patients directly in their next job, and that their current job lacks training, an RN to BSN program may be a good fit.

It’s Time to Choose Your Online Bridge Program

Once you’ve reflected on your past education, current commitment level, and career goals, it’s time to find your bridge program. If you’re still stuck between a few, that’s ok. To become unstuck, jot a pros and cons list for each program type or institution you’re considering.

Once you’ve decided on a program type, refer back to the guides linked in this blog for the best programs at your desired education level. Your notes on career goals, budget, and educational preferences can also be useful when choosing a specific institution.

How to Choose the Right Online Healthcare Bridge Program (2024)


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