The Ultimate Guide to Paramedic to RN Bridge Programs
If you're a paramedic, you may be considering transitioning to a career as a registered nurse. Constantly facing emergencies and unpredictable situations can take an emotional and physical toll.
RNs also earn significantly more money than paramedics and have more opportunities for advancement and long-term job stability. If you're thinking about advancing your career to become an RN, you'll need to go through an RN-to-Paramedic program. Read on to learn everything you need to know about them and how to make the transition.
What are Paramedic to RN Bridge Programs?
Paramedics who want to build on their extensive medical training and experience to pursue an RN degree can do so through a Paramedic-to-RN bridge program. These accelerated programs provide the education and training needed to make the transition from one career to the other while allowing you to continue working.
Paramedic-to-RN bridge programs can lead to an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Both of these degrees provide courses in nursing theory and patient care planning, as well as other pertinent classes and clinical training experience.
At the end of either program, your final step will be to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which provides certification as a registered nurse, and to apply for your RN license through your state’s Board of Nursing.
What are the Benefits of a Paramedic-to-RN Program?
Paramedic-to-RN programs are designed to give you the knowledge you need as quickly as possible so that you can take and pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and apply for your license.
In addition to recognizing and counting your paramedic experience and training towards your degree attainment, many Paramedic-to-RN bridge programs provide the ability to avoid taking otherwise required classes by taking examinations for class credit.
This “testing out” expedites the process and gives paramedics a fast track that moves them beyond the basics they already know and directly to lessons specific to nursing care.
Paramedic-to-RN bridge programs offer numerous advantages, including:
- Acknowledgment of your existing knowledge, training and clinical experience
- Flexibility, allowing you to learn while you work and accommodating your busy lifestyle
- Eligibility for federal financial aid
- Efficient and economical time management, offering the ability to earn your RN degree faster
- Rolling admissions mean that you can begin whenever you’re ready
- Online accessibility means you can learn wherever you are
- Full and part-time programs available
- Less costly than degrees earned in traditional educational settings
Top 6 Reasons to Go From a Paramedic to an RN
Before we dig into the details about paramedic to rn programs, it's important to know why you may want to pursue a career as an RN. There are so many benefits to building on your paramedic training and experience and pursuing a degree as a registered nurse. Here are some of the top reasons:
1.) RNs Earn More Than Paramedics
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for paramedics in 2020 was $36,650, while registered nurses earned a median salary of $75,330. Meaning registered nurses are earning more than DOUBLE the salaries of paramedics.
2.) RNs Have More Options On Where They Can Work
As first responders, paramedics’ work settings can vary, but only to a small degree: they work in ambulances, helicopters, ships and other areas where immediate urgent assessment and care is required.
Registered nurses are able to work in a much wider range of settings, from physicians’ offices to all areas of hospitals, from schools to nursing homes.
3.) RNs Have More Career & Specialty Opportunities
Paramedics work in one specialty area and with one purpose: to quickly assess and evaluate the situation, then take action to provide the medical care needed until the patient can be transferred into the hands of another healthcare professional.
Registered nurses are able to choose from a wide range of care areas and to focus on particular areas of interest such as pediatrics, oncology and geriatrics, as well as emergency care.
4.) RNs Have More Opportunities for Patient Engagement
While paramedics make essential medical decisions, their interactions with patients are necessarily brief and driven by a sense of urgency.
Registered nurses have the ability to work with patients in a more slow-paced and thoughtful manner, establishing an in-depth connection and managing patient wellbeing over an extended period of time.
5.) RN Jobs Can Be Less Stressful
As a paramedic, your job is perpetually fast-paced and defined by episodes of stress in which you are constantly tasked with making life-or-death decisions. Registered nurses can work in care settings that allow a slower pace, greater predictability, and less job burnout. They also can rely on other team members who also share the responsibilities of a specific patient’s care
6.) RNs Have More Opportunity for Advancement
RNs have more opportunities to advance into supervisory and management positions, as well as to pursue advanced degrees that introduce them to other careers: they can become Nurse Educators or Nurse Practitioners, or earn their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.
Types of Paramedic to RN Bridge Programs
As a paramedic looking to become a registered nurse, you can choose between 2 types of paramedic to RN bridge programs:
- Paramedic-to-ADN Bridge Programs
- Paramedic-to-BSN Bridge Programs
Which one is right for you will depend on how much time and money you want to commit to your education right now, and what your ultimate career goals are.
An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is faster and generally cheaper than a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN), which is why many aspiring nurses choose that route. If you need to start working as soon as possible, or don't have the money for a Bachelor's degree, it's a great option.
On the other hand, if you have the time and money and want to earn a higher salary and have more career opportunities, it may be worthwhile to earn your BSN. Many hospitals prefer hiring nurses that have bachelor's degrees and they can earn higher wages.
Paramedic-to-ADN Bridge Programs
A paramedic-to-ADN bridge program is an accelerated program that will take you from a paramedic to a registered nurse. With an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), you can generally complete the program in one to two years and you can do it either online or in-person.
Upon completion of your ADN, you'll be eligible for entry-level registered nurse positions.
They also have the opportunity to later pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. These programs are frequently available at vocational schools, community colleges, and online.
Paramedic-to-BSN Bridge Programs
Paramedics who pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree generally complete their program in two to four years. These programs can be either full-time or part-time.
Registered nurses with a BSN degree may be eligible for a wider range of career opportunities than ADN-degreed nurses, but the program takes longer to complete.
The BSN programs involve a more rigorous course of study that provides credit for paramedic training and experience and combines it with a required number of courses in nursing theory and clinical experience supported by requirements for general education coursework.
Paramedic to ADN Bridge Programs vs Paramedic to BSN Bridge Programs
Both programs teach the core competencies of nursing and patient care, but earning an ADN takes much less time and is generally earned within 12-24 months.
By contrast, a BSN is a 4-year degree that involves the study of a much wider range of topics.
Graduates of BSN programs generally have taken more general education classes, as well as courses that educate them on areas of interest specific to nursing and beyond, including classes on public health and management.
The broader scope of information provided by BSN studies prepares graduates for the needs of the profession as well as for future growth into management, administration, education, research and healthcare policy.
Online Paramedic-to-RN Programs
Online paramedic-to-RN programs offer tremendous flexibility, giving you the option of continuing to work while advancing your career. These programs recognize and give credit for the training hours, education and certifications that you have already achieved and allow you to earn your RN degree in much less time than a traditional program would.
Paramedic-to-RN Bridge Program Accreditation
When choosing a program, your first requirement should be accreditation. Only an accredited paramedic-to-RN program assures potential employers that your education has met the evidence-based standards that they require of their registered nurse employees.
The two accrediting bodies for RN programs are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), whose certification is specific to those earning Bachelors’ degrees and higher, and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), which accredits all nursing degrees.
Accredited Paramedic-to-RN bridge programs are available all around the country through community college programs as well as at private colleges and state universities. This makes it possible to select a program that meets all of your needs, including geographic convenience, cost and reputation.
Paramedic-to-RN Program Requirements
Each school offering a paramedic-to-RN program will have its own requirements, but most require at least one year of paramedic experience. Additionally, students who are considering applying will likely be asked to meet the following basic prerequisites for admission:
- Proof of either a high school diploma or GED
- Transcripts indicating the courses taken in high school and beyond, as well as grades earned
- Proof of meeting prerequisite course requirements for relevant classwork
- Proof of a current BLS/CPR certification
- Completion of a program for Emergency Medical Services accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Program (CAAHEP) within the last 3 years
- Proof of holding an unrestricted and current state or National Paramedic Registry Certificate
- References (personal, professional, or both)
- Proof of having up-to-date immunizations
- Proof of having passed the HESI (Health Education Systems Incorporated) exam with a minimum grade
What Will You Learn in a Paramedic-to-RN Bridge Program?
Paramedic-to-RN bridge programs focus on the additional information that emergency medical professionals need to expand beyond their current level of education and experience.
A good deal of time will be spent on theory of nursing courses and comprehensive care techniques, patient assessment, and the different specialty areas in which a registered nurse is most likely to practice.
Clinical training will teach paramedics skills that are significantly different from what they have been exposed to in urgent-care situations, including mental health care, managing chronic illness, and promoting wellness.
How Long Do Paramedic-to-RN Bridge Programs Take?
Paramedic-to-ADN programs generally take just a few semesters to complete, and most paramedics are able to earn their RN degrees in about a year and a half. Students who are pursuing full-time studies can usually complete these programs in under 16 months.
Most programs require just 36 credit hour requirements of nursing courses in addition to the credits earned for prerequisite classes, for a total of approximately 72 hours.
Prerequisite classes may include physiology and anatomy, chemistry, microbiology, psychology, and composition, while nursing courses will cover the areas that paramedic training did not prepare you for, including clinical assessment, nursing theory, basics of research and exposure to the many areas of care that deal with non-emergent patients.
Your program may also include management and leadership classes. This is especially true if you are pursuing a BSN degree. Examples of classes that may be required in a Paramedic-to-RN program that leads to a BSN may include:
- Introduction to Professional Nursing
- Fundamentals of Nursing Practice (with clinical practice)
- Health Assessment in Nursing (with clinical practice)
- Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing
- Nursing Care of Adults (with clinical practice)
- Contemporary Issues in Professional Nursing
- Nursing Care in Behavioral Health (with clinical practice)
- Nursing Care of Women, Children, and Families (with clinical experience)
- Nursing Care of Adults with Complex Health Care Problems (with clinical practice)
- Health and Illness in the Community (with clinical practice)
- Global Health and Health Policy
- Nursing Research
- Leadership and Management
Programs will also require laboratory hours and clinical rotations in keeping with local nursing requirements, either through established partnerships with healthcare facilities affiliated with the program or through internships that the students arrange for themselves.
Paramedic-to-RN Program Cost
Every paramedic-to-RN bridge program will have its own costs, and much will depend upon whether the accelerated program leads to an ADN degree or a BSN degree.
Geography often plays a significant role in the price of a credit, as well as whether you choose a public or private college or a community college program.
Whichever program you pursue, you are likely to find that the cost is significantly lower than attending a 4-year program, as most paramedic-to-RN bridge programs can be completed in just three semesters.
It is also important to remember that whatever the cost, you are likely to see a significant salary increase in transitioning from a career as a paramedic to a career as an RN.
How to Pay for a Paramedic-to-RN Program
Transitioning from a career as a paramedic to one as a registered nurse will expand your career opportunities and enhance your earning potential, but in order to achieve this goal you need to be able to pay for the Paramedic-to-RN program that you choose to attend.
Fortunately, there are many options available to support you in your goal, including grants, scholarships and loans. Here are just a few:
If you are currently working as a paramedic, the organization that employs you may offer tuition reimbursement. These benefits are offered in a variety of ways and may require that you remain with your employer for a specific amount of time in exchange for the additional compensation represented by your tuition.
A number of organizations offer scholarships that are specifically dedicated to encouraging students to pursue degrees in nursing, whether they have never taken a nursing course or are looking to advance in their career.
A few notable examples include:
- The AfterCollege/AACN Scholarship Fund, which is available to students who are attending an AACN-accredited school and who are pursuing bridge to BSN programs.
- The National Student Nurses Association Foundation gives out scholarships ranging from $1,000 up to $7,500 to students taking at least six credits per semester at either an undergraduate nursing program or a BSN bridge program.
- The National CPR foundation provides scholarships for students pursuing careers in healthcare. Scholarships are distributed monthly to students who submit 500-to-750-word essays on why they want to pursue a healthcare degree. Each scholarship is valued at $500.
A variety of grants are given out to students who demonstrate financial need. These are offered by the federal government, as well as by states and individual colleges. Like scholarships, grants do not require that you repay them.
The selection of students who qualify is based on information submitted on the FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Once you’ve filled out the form, you will receive notification of a financial aid award, either with your acceptance letter or at some point thereafter.
Though student loans will eventually need to be repaid, students who enroll in paramedic-to-RN programs do so with the knowledge that once they’ve earned their degree, they are likely to earn significantly more money.
The best source of a student loan is the federal government, which provides both greater protection and lower interest rates. Applying for these loans requires filling out the same form that you use to apply for a grant — the FAFSA.
If you are going to pay cash for your tuition, the paramedic-to-RN program that you choose may allow you to set up a payment plan. Many schools also offer financial aid, so contact the school directly once you’ve been accepted to ask what options are available.
Is a Paramedic-to-RN Bridge Program Right for Me?
Choosing to pursue a registered nurse degree is a big decision that should be based on your own personal goals, dreams, and needs. If you’re not certain about whether to move forward, it’s a good idea to consider what your job responsibilities are now and compare them to how having an RN degree will change your role.
- Rather than working in a perpetually high stress and unpredictable environment that takes a physical and emotional toll, you can choose a work setting that is focused on a sustained and predictable level of patient care
- Your patient care will shift from addressing acute and varying situations to making decisions and providing care in whatever area you choose as a specialty
- While still working with autonomy, you become part of a care team
- You can remain in emergency or other acute care settings while using your education and professional judgment to make decisions that go beyond stabilizing patients
- You will have a wider selection of settings in which to work
- You will have a greater connection with the patients you treat
Once you have earned your RN degree, you will have greatly expanded your knowledge and clinical skills, while boosting your earning power and your opportunity to move into patient care areas that are of interest to you. While the job market for paramedics is expanding, there are significantly more opportunities available to RNs, as well as the chance to continue to grow within the field and pursue more advanced degrees.
Paramedic-to-RN Bridge Program FAQs
- How long is a paramedic to an RN program?
- Paramedics who pursue an Associate’s Degree in Nursing can generally complete their bridge program in one to two years, either online or in person. Paramedics who pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree generally complete their program in two to four years. These programs can be either full-time or part-time.
- Can you go from an EMT to an RN?
- There are programs that recognize and give credit for the training hours, education, and certifications that you have already achieved as an EMT and allow you to earn your RN degree in much less time than a traditional program would.
- How do you go from being a Paramedic to an RN?
- Programs that allow Paramedics to become RNs require a minimum of one year of experience and are tailor-made to help paramedics gain the knowledge needed to enter the nursing profession. These programs allow students to gain full college credit through a series of standardized tests.
Related Healthcare Careers You May Be Interested In:
- Pharmacy Technician Career Guide
- Healthcare Administration Career Guide
- Medical Billing & Coding Career Guide
- Medical Assistant Career Guide
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Registered Nurse Salary: US News and World Report
- Paramedic Salary: US News and World Report
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing
- Johnson & Johnson Nursing
- Medscape RN/LPN Compensation Report, 2018
- National League for Nursing
- Journal of Emergency Medical Services
- National EMS Management Association
- American Addiction Centers
- American Red Cross
- Daughters of the American Revolution
- National Student Nurses Association
- National CPR Foundation
- Federal Student Aid
- CNN Money