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Hospital Based Nursing Programs Overview

Read about the curricula and requirements of hospital-based nursing programs. Find out about career and continuing education opportunities, and learn about salary and employment trends for nurses.

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Essential Information

There are typically two types of hospital-based nursing programs: the Diploma in Nursing and the LPN-RN (licensed practical nurse to registered nurse) bridge program. Either program takes around two years, full-time, to complete. These programs aren't available online, but hospitals usually offer both day and evening class options.

Applicants for the diploma program will need a high school degree; applicants for the LPN-RN bridge program will need to be LPNs. Admission to these programs can be competitive, and prerequisite coursework, physical and background checks, and proof of citizenship may be required. Both programs prepare graduates to take the national licensing exam to become RNs.

Diploma in Nursing

A hospital based nursing program allows students to have patient contact at the hospital while learning nursing skills in the classroom. Typically, the classroom portion of a program takes place in conjunction with a nearby college or university, and the hospital provides the clinical coursework. These programs allow students to prepare for state licensing as a registered nurse (RN).

Some programs also allow students to gain experience in different areas of nursing, such as pediatric, surgical and psychiatric nursing. Hospital based programs teach students to function as part of a medical team and give nursing care to a diverse population of patients. Depending on the program, some students may earn both an associate degree from the school and a diploma in nursing from the hospital.

Education Prerequisites

To qualify for admission into hospital's nursing program, students need to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Programs may require students to complete prerequisite coursework in algebra, chemistry and biology. Hospitals usually require students to pass a drug screen and criminal background check prior to admission.

Course Topics

Students take a range of classes in different areas of science, including chemistry, biology and anatomy. Other topics covered in a program include:

  • Nutrition
  • Medical terminology
  • Adult nursing care
  • Psychiatric nursing
  • Medical ethics
  • Medical-surgical nursing
  • Pediatric nursing care
  • Nursing history

Popular Career Options

A hospital nursing program prepares students to work as nurses. Graduates, after becoming licensed, may work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Home healthcare services
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Medical specialty centers
  • Schools

Continuing Education Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all states require nurses to be licensed ( While nursing licensure is handled at the state level, all states use the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and require that students graduate from an approved nursing program.

After completing a diploma program and becoming an RN, individuals may continue their education and pursue a bachelor's degree and then a master's degree in nursing. Nurses with at least a bachelor's degree may qualify for teaching positions and management positions. According to the BLS, nurses with a master's degree in nursing have the chance to become advanced practice nurses. Advanced practice nursing includes nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners.

Licensed Practical Nurse to RN Program (LPN-RN)

Many hospital based nursing programs additionally offer programs for licensed practical nurses (LPNs) who want to become RNs. These LPN-RN programs usually take about two years to complete. Some programs may award an associate degree upon completion of the program, but programs may, alternatively, award a diploma.

Education Prerequisites

Students usually need to provide a copy of their active LPN license. Schools may also require passing a physical exam and drug test for admissions.

Course Topics

Students in an LPN-RN program study topics in science, professional development and nursing. Topics covered in a program may include:

  • Microbiology
  • Computer applications
  • Child development
  • Psychology
  • Public speaking
  • Sociology

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the BLS, job growth for registered nurses from 2010-2020 is expected to be about 26%. An increase in the demand for healthcare is expected to play a role in the job growth. Job opportunities are expected to increase in outpatient centers, home healthcare and residential healthcare settings.

The BLS reported a mean annual salary of $69,110 for RNs as of May 2011. The 10th-90th percentile range earned $44,970-$96,630.

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