Due to increasing demands at home, busy work schedules and diversity of roles it is hard for nurses to further their career or obtain a degree. But with the advancement in technology, today we have the opportunity for a higher education through distance learning, a nontraditional way to earn a degree, which was not as readily available in the past. Today, most colleges or universities offer both traditional and nontraditional nursing programs often called "Bridge Programs" allowing nurses to obtain an LPN to RN, Paramedic to RN, RN to BSN, or BSN to a Masters Degree.
Traditional and nontraditional LPN to RN Bridge programs are quite different in many ways. With a traditional nursing program the student has a structured atmosphere, face to face interaction with the instructors and other students, and onsite resources are available. The disadvantage of a traditional program is that most nursing programs only start once or twice a year with a limited number of students that are accepted into the program as well as most schools choose their applicants based on a point system which limits those who are accepted into a program. With today's nursing shortage, traditional nursing schools lack nursing instructors to teach the programs.
A nontraditional LPN to RN Bridge program is an appealing alternative to those who wish to further their education but due to family, work or other obligations are unable to attend a traditional program. The benefits of a nontraditional LPN to RN Bridge program are that one can usually start at any time and the school usually does not have a limit on the number of students to attend. The classes can be taken at the convenience of the student allowing them to be flexible with work or their family.
In studies that explored distance education in nursing programs several studies confirmed that the students who took online courses showed equal if not better achievement of program outcomes when compared with students in traditional nursing programs. The studies indicate that the education delivered via online is at least equal and, in many cases is superior to traditional education (Legg, Adelmen, & Levitt, 2007, p. 65). A study performed by Shachar & Neumann (2003) demonstrated that in two thirds of the cases, the students who took courses using distance education "outperformed their student counterparts enrolled in traditionally instructed courses" (Shachar & Neumann, 2003, p. 1). Thiele (2003) reported that nursing students who took online courses became more independent and self-disciplined learner (Thiele, 2003), (Legg et al.)
The goal of the nontraditional LPN to RN Bridge Program is to make it easier to obtain a nursing degree for students who work full time, have unusual work schedules, are single parents or are unable to enroll in a traditional nursing program. Studies show that program outcomes with the nontraditional nursing programs are at least equal, to if not superior to the traditional nursing program. Many nurses find that learning through distance education provides a practical and acceptable alternative for degree completion.