Hospital Based Nursing Programs Overview

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.

Essential Information

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. These programs take two years to complete and included clinical rotations. Both programs prepare graduates to take the national and state licensing exams to become registered nurses (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.

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. 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-surgical nursing
  • Pediatric nursing care

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. Some programs may award an associate degree upon completion of the program, but programs may, alternatively, award a diploma. 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

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

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the BLS, job growth for registered nurses from 2014-2024 is expected to be about 16%. An increase in the demand for healthcare is expected to play a role in the job growth. The BLS reported a median annual salary of $67,490 for RNs as of May 2015. The 10th-90th percentile range earned $46,360-$101,630.

Continuing Education

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.

Students wanting to become an RN in a hospital setting may chose to earn a diploma in nursing, or if they are already an LPN, graduate from a LPN to RN program. Through classwork and hands on clinical experience these programs will prepare students for the NCLEX-RN.

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