There are ample reasons why a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in Washington state would want to pursue full licensure as a registered nurse (RN). Employment data reveals that RNs not only earn more but the job market for RNs in Washington is also projected to grow by some 10,000 jobs. Additionally, RN licensure allows you to hone new skills while preparing for any number of leadership positions. So, what’s the best way to earn your RN license? By completing one of Washington state’s standout LPN-to-RN bridge programs.
These programs are designed for the working LPN, building on your foundational knowledge and offering the training and expertise you need to pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam and jumpstart your career. Some programs, such as the one at Lower Columbia College, offer an LPN-to-RN program online in Washington state.
Throughout this page, we spotlight three standout LPN-to-RN bridge programs in Washington state, dive into what you can expect as an LPN-to-RN student, and review some of the most important factors you should consider when searching for the school that’s right for you. Keep reading to learn more about this unique academic option and how to make it work for you.
Program Spotlights: Top LPN to RN Programs in Washington
No two LPN-to-RN bridge programs in Washington state are identical, and as a result, taking the time to find the program that aligns with your personal goals and academic needs is essential. In the following section, we’re spotlighting three standout LPN to RN bridge programs in Washington. Read on to see which school is right for you.
Established in 1967, Pierce College is a public community college that serves over 17,000 students in Pierce County, Washington. Among Pierce’s bevy of associate degrees and technical training options is an LPN to RN bridge program that full-time students can complete in just three terms.
Throughout Pierce’s program, accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, students tackle both theoretical coursework and hands-on clinical experiences. Standard courses include topics such as nursing skills in acute illnesses, topics in obstetrical nursing care, and transition to nursing practice. Before graduating, students also complete a nursing practicum and a nursing capstone seminar.
Pierce College’s LPN to RN bridge program in Washington state is open to any student holding an active and unencumbered LPN license. In addition to an online application, prospective students must submit official transcripts, a professional resume, and a personal statement outlining their interest in the program.
Tacoma Community College
Tacoma Community College is home to one of Washington’s standout LPN-to-RN programs that not only offers a pathway to RN licensure, but also prepares students for a seamless transfer to a four-year institution. Throughout this program, students engage in hands-on experiences and evidence-based coursework that informs competent and compassionate nursing care.
Full-time LPN-to-RN students in this bridge program in Washington can complete the program in just one year. Core classes include topics such as health and illness concepts, pharmacology, nutrition in healthcare, and ethics and policy in healthcare. Before graduation, students also complete a six-credit clinical experience that prepares them to transition to professional clinical practice.
Prospective students must hold an active LPN license in Washington. Additionally, applicants must complete a significant list of prerequisites with a minimum “B” grade. Prerequisites include classes such as lifespan psychology, general microbiology, and human anatomy and physiology.
Lower Columbia College
Based in southwest Washington state and established in 1934, Lower Columbia College is a community college that is home to an LPN-to-RN bridge program students can complete either in-person or online. While both programs cover similar topics, online learners complete requirements over four terms, while in-person students can graduate in just three terms.
Core classes include topics such as essential concepts of nursing practice, nursing throughout the lifespan, and psychosocial issues in healthcare. Before graduating, LPN-to-RN students complete 15 credits of a clinical practicum that prepares them for autonomous nursing practice.
Prospective students should hold an active practical nursing license in either Washington or Oregon. Students interested in the online learning option must have at least 1,000 hours of clinical work experience as an LPN and a cumulative GPA of at least 2.8. Applicants must also submit scores from the Test of Essential Academic Skills along with other application materials.
What to Expect From LPN to RN Programs in Washington State
In an in-person or online LPN-to-RN program in Washington state, you can expect to acquire a comprehensive set of nursing skills and knowledge that will expand your earning potential and make you more competitive in the job market. These programs are designed to build upon the foundational knowledge gained during an LPN program and further develop your critical thinking, clinical, and management abilities.
The overall curriculum of an LPN-to-RN program in Washington state typically includes a combination of clinical training, theoretical nursing classes, and general education courses. Clinical training is a crucial element, and schools such as Washington State Community College hone in on developing clinical nursing judgment while allowing you to apply theoretical concepts in real-world, hands-on healthcare settings. In these clinical settings, LPN-to-RN students work alongside healthcare professionals, gaining experience in various areas such as medical-surgical, pediatric, obstetric, and psychiatric nursing.
As you work your way through an LPN-to-RN bridge program, one of the ultimate goals is to have the knowledge necessary to pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), which is required. While NCLEX pass rates vary among schools, Lower Columbia College boasts a 90% rate for students completing their online LPN-to-RN program.
Continue reading as we highlight some of the typical courses you’ll encounter when tackling an LPN-to-RN bridge program in Washington state.
Online vs Hybrid vs On-Campus: Know Before You Go
By utilizing virtual learning platforms, nursing programs have expanded access to higher education through hybrid and fully online programs. As a result, you’ll likely see some of these programs when searching for the best Washington LPN-to-RN bridge program for you. In the following section, we define these options so you can determine what format best aligns with your learning style.
In a hybrid LPN-to-RN program in Washington state, expect a blend of online and in-person learning. You can access lectures and theoretical coursework online, providing expanded flexibility and convenience, especially for working students. Conversely, in-person components include labs, hands-on skills training, and clinical experiences.
In addition to self-guided work, hybrid learners benefit from interactive online discussions and virtual simulations, all while maintaining regular face-to-face interactions with faculty and peers. Anticipate a balance of self-paced learning and practical applications.
Online LPN-to-RN programs in Washington state offer maximum flexibility when advancing your nursing education. Still, be ready to complete clinical hours in person—nothing can replace these valuable hands-on learning opportunities. Through virtual platforms, students access coursework and lectures at their own pace, while online discussions and forums promote collaboration among a cohort.
While online programs offer benefits such as expanded accessibility, self-paced learning, and the ability to balance work and family obligations, virtual learners must be self-motivated.
Virtual learning is not for everyone, and many LPN-to-RN students in Washington state thrive with hands-on training and a more personal educational environment. These programs foster direct interaction in both classroom and clinical settings, honing the practical skills crucial to nursing practice.
Face-to-face instruction also helps students develop professional relationships that are often beneficial when entering the job market. Additionally, regular access to campus resources, such as libraries and labs, enhances your learning experience.
Common Components of LPN to RN Programs in Washington
As you explore prospective in-person, hybrid, or online LPN-to-RN programs in Washington, you’ll inevitably see some common components among schools. But just because elements such as admission requirements, cost, duration, and prerequisites look similar doesn’t mean they’re identical. As a result, be sure to review programs closely and reach out if you have any questions. We’ve highlighted some common components you’ll encounter below.
While admission requirements vary between LPN-to-RN programs in Washington, there are some standard factors that most programs consider. You must hold an active and unencumbered LPN license and all the requisite vaccinations. Additionally, schools such as Bellingham Technical College require applicants to verify their healthcare experience before applying.
Expect to include academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and all relevant fees. Prerequisite coursework also varies, but typical requirements include classes such as human anatomy, microbiology, intro to chemistry, and psychology.
The cost for your Washington-based LPN-to-RN program will vary, but typically public institutions and community colleges offer the most competitive tuition rates. Still, pursuing your RN licensure requires an investment of both time and money. Pierce College estimates that its LPN-to-RN bridge program costs $6,000 to $7,000. Various financial aid opportunities can help offset the cost of this program.
In addition to tuition, fees and preprogram costs can add up quickly. Your application, immunizations, uniform, books, and CPR/first aid training can cost $400 or more.
The time it takes to complete your Washington LPN-to-RN program is primarily determined by your status as a full-time or part-time student. Full-time students graduate more quickly, and at schools such as Pierce College that equates to three terms or nine months. For busy students more comfortable with part-time enrollment, Pierce offers a five-term track that takes a little over a year to complete.
In addition to holding an active LPN license, prospective LPN-to-RN students in Washington must have a number of prerequisite classes under their belt. This varies between programs, but you can expect to complete classes such as human anatomy and physiology, English composition, lifespan psychology, and general microbiology before beginning your bridge program. Additionally, it’s often not enough to have just passed a prerequisite course—schools such as Tacoma Community College require that each prerequisite is completed with a grade of “B” or higher.
LPN vs RN in Washington State: Job and Earnings Outlook
If you’re considering tackling an LPN-to-RN program, a close look at the job and earnings outlook for LPNs and RNs in Washington state will help inform and shape your nursing career. Read on as we dive into the numbers and how they back up an LPN-to-RN program as a solid career choice.
A quick review of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics makes one thing clear: Registered nurses in Washington state earn considerably more than LPNs. While RNs earn an average annual salary of $101,670, LPNs in the state earn $69,950. Additionally, while the top-earning LPNs earn more than about $64,000, the top 10% of RNs earn more than $120,000. As a result, if maximizing your earning potential sounds good, the investment of time and effort required for an LPN-to-RN bridge program in Washington state can certainly pay dividends in short order.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on the national level jobs for both RNs and LPNs are projected to grow 6% by 2031—but a closer look at the job data from Washington state paints a different picture. State-specific projections for RNs in Washington reveal a 16.2% growth rate, while LPNs are projected to match the 6% national rate. In Washington, RNs don’t just get paid more, but the job market for RNs is projected to grow by nearly 10,000 positions by 2030.
Source: Projections Central