You have made the sacrifice, put in the effort, and become an LPN. You have been working hard to master your craft. Now, you have decided that it is time to take the next step and become an RN. You certainly don't want to repeat what you've learned in LPN and therefore have decided an LPN to RN program would be best.
But where to start? The first question to ask yourself is what are my options? Some states have LPN to BSN programs, some do not. Most states have LPN to ADN programs, but are they right for you? Where are these programs anyway? How do you determine if they are "legit?"
The best place to start, no matter what state you are in, is with the Board of Nursing's website for that state. Here you can find out which programs are on probation, which are closing down, and which are actually approved by your state's Board of Nursing. Usually, this is located in some sort of "Education" section, though it varies from state to state.
Each state should have a list of approved programs and once you have this list in hand you go to work. States will not always list the LPN to ADN or LPN to BSN programs. Therefore, you will need to check out each school of nursing on the list. This mostly involves looking on their website and/or calling the school itself. If you are interested in LPN to ADN then look at all the schools on the list that offer an ADN and see if they offer a bridge program. This is tedious, but worth it. If you want to do LPN to BSN, then look at all the schools on the list that offer a BSN and see if they have a bridge program.
Next, you want to make a list of schools for you to look further into. You'll want to look at how long each LPN to RN program is and if there are any additional steps you would have to take to have time shaved off. Some schools are only a year long, allowing you to enter the second year of the ADN program simply for having the LPN license (unencumbered, in good standing), possibly a standardized test (NACE, TEAS, etc.), and pre-requisites. Others will want you to take a clinical skills test and/or a standardized test and the score on those will determine how much time is shaved off (or if you can enter the program at all). Other schools will want you to take a course that reviews the content of the first year and if you pass it can go into the second year (usually 1 or 2 credits). There are even more combinations of test scores, pre-requisites, having an LPN license, doing a bridge course, and doing a skills test than I can mention here. Suffice it to say requirements can vary from school to school.
While going through the list see what requirements you are willing to do and not willing to do. You may be willing to study for a standardized test, but not want to take more than one of them. You may be willing to perform a clinical skills test or not. The decision is personal and depends on what hoops you're willing to jump through.
Once that list is narrowed down look at pre-requisite classes. See if previous coursework will apply. At one school you may have to take a math class, while at another school you may be able to test out of it completely with a placement test. Some schools honor high school classes if within a certain number of years. Some schools offer pre-requisites online, in the evening, on weekends, in hybrid online format or all of the above. You may have to take the pre-requisites at another school and transfer them in. See if they will be accepted or not. It's a juggling act, but the rewards are well worth it.
Now you have narrowed your list down to a much smaller number than when you started. You may want to apply to multiple schools. Some schools do competitive admissions and you have to apply and compete each year. Some schools have a waitlist and don't care about your GPA as long as it meets the minimum and you have met all the requirements. Some schools will look at every college course you have ever taken while others will look only at your GPA from their institution.
Another important factor is to find out when they hold classes and clinicals. Some programs are only Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Others are during the weekday, but nights. Still, others are during the weekday, but days. There are also combinations of all of these. Some schools come out and say their schedule, but more likely than not a school can only give a rough estimate. For example, one school I applied to was only Friday, Saturday, and Sundays. They confirmed this in their information session. Friday was always 3-10for clinical, Saturday was always classes, and Sundays times varied for clinical. Another school I applied to give an "example schedule" of Friday, Saturday, Sunday, but this turned out to not be the best example. After e-mailing the director I found out that clinical could happen at any time and that you submit a choice of weekends, weeknights, or weekdays. That classes were always one day during the week (Thursdays for this year). There are a couple more programs that had other combinations. Some varied each semester of the program.
I know this can seem overwhelming as there are a lot of moving pieces, but remember why you want to become an RN. Also, it is important to be thorough, ask lots of questions, and double check every answer you get either from the website or from someone at the school.
The steps I have listed do not have to go in that exact order and some can be done simultaneously.
I'll cover other relevant topics in upcoming articles.