We cover a wide range of topics all relating to paramedics and registered nurses. These topics include, but are not limited to, salary and job advancement opportunities, types of degree programs available, and online institutions offering accredited degrees in the field.
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Paramedic to RN Information Guide
If you’re working as a paramedic, and want to keep helping people with medical problems without the stress and fast-paced environment of being an emergency responder, becoming a registered nurse (RN) is a good way to advance your career and move into a less volatile working style. RNs can work in doctor’s offices, hospitals, and private clinics, providing primary care services and collaborating with physicians to diagnose and treat acute and chronic medical disorders.
The transition from paramedic to RN doesn’t have to be a difficult one, but becoming an RN does take a significant chunk of time, even for someone with previous medical experience. After completing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program, which can take between 18 months and four years, you’ll need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which requires months of studying, and will determine whether you can be licensed to practice nursing. You can take the test more than once, but you can’t practice as an RN until you pass it.
The benefits of becoming an RN rather than a paramedic are clear though. As a paramedic, you may be on call 24 hours per day, and your job will consist of long periods of total inactivity punctuated by short bursts of intense action. RNs usually work about forty hours per week, though more hours are available for people who like to keep busy. RNs also earn a median wage over twice that of paramedics, according to data gathered by The Bureau of Labor Statistics in May, 2008. Unless the fast pace and odd hours are what attracts to working as a paramedic, continuing your studies and becoming an RN can definitely be considered an upgrade.
Paramedic to RN Online Programs
There are several schools that offer accredited nursing programs to help you transition from a career as a paramedic to one as an RN. You can even start from scratch and take most or all of your classes towards being a nurse online.
The College Network -- Paramedics can earn RN licensure in as little as 18 months through this AS in nursing program (paramedic to RN) from The College Network. No campus attendance is required, and the program is structured to accommodate the busy schedules of EMT and fire service professionals. The College Network also offers an EMT to BS in EMS Management degree for emergency medical technicians looking to advance their careers into emergency medical services management.
Guide to Paramedic to RN Degree Programs
Making the leap from a paramedic to an RN is a big task, but it has its rewards in terms of job opportunities and pay. In some cases, an RN can command nearly twice the salary of a paramedic. While you may have an ample background in trauma and caring for patients, you still have to obtain the proper license and degree to work as an RN in your state. The healthcare industry continues to add jobs regardless of the economy’s state, ensuring a strong job outlook for those who make the transition to an RN.
There are now bridge programs that take you from being a paramedic to an RN. This ensures you put your previous knowledge to use, while gaining the formal training and licensing you need to become a practicing RN. Because of the hectic schedule most paramedics face, you may not know how it’s feasible to attend a paramedic to RN program. The paramedic to RN bridge program can be completed entirely online. There’s no need to pay a babysitter or cut down your hours at work when you’re able to attend classes online. Because you already have a hefty background in the medical field, in most cases it is fairly simple to adapt to online courses and gain the knowledge you need to prepare yourself for state-mandated exams that allow you to enter the nursing field. Along with paramedic to RN programs, there are other nursing bridge programs that can start or advance your career:
- Paramedic to RN Bridge Programs
- LPN/LVN to RN Bridge Programs
- RN to BSN Bridge Programs
- RN to MSN Bridge Programs
Working as an RN varies from working as a paramedic because you’re looking at long term patient care. A paramedic is equipped to care for a patient short term, whether it’s saving a life or helping a patient through a difficult situation. For an RN, the treatment is prolonged and involves personalized care treating a specific problem or disease. Paramedics are trained to alleviate, where a nurse is trained to cure or prolong health. A nurse’s job is also to show a patient how to aide themselves after they are out of the doctor’s office or hospital. Most paramedic to RN programs take anywhere from 18 months to 2 years to complete.
How to Transition from Paramedic to RN
First, find a program that fits your needs and schedule. Any accredited online paramedic to RN bridge program will prepare you properly for sitting for state exams. Have an open mind and remind yourself that you are learning new material, not information you already know. While being a paramedic is similar to being an RN in some ways, it also opens new territory in terms of how you look at a patient and what is within your control once you’re treating a patient. An RN must follow all protocol to ensure the safety of a patient, the nurse and the medical staff. You may not initially have the autonomy you’re accustomed to working as a paramedic. For some, the transition from paramedic to ER nurse is the easiest route to go as you are still working in a fast-paced environment and treating trauma patients.
Studying and prepping for online exams might be difficult. Time management is key. Check out online nursing messageboards to get a feel for how others are making the transition from paramedic to RN. It will help to have moral support from those who’ve made the same changes you have or are in the process of attending online courses. You will see that many nurses who were former paramedics find the most difficult thing is waiting for doctors orders or asking for a doctor’s approval on tasks. This will take some adjusting to, but remind yourself you are no longer (usually) working with life or death patients, but the long term treatment of a patient. You are also responsible for teaching that patient how to care for him or herself outside of the office or hospital.
Some paramedic programs are based at a university. If this is the case with your paramedic background, you may only have to complete nursing courses. For you, it may be wise to see a school advisor at an online college or university, as you may end up taking unnecessary courses if you enroll in a paramedic to RN bridge program.
All nurses are required to sit for the Clinical Performance in Nursing Exam (CPNE). The CPNE evaluates a nurse in the beginning stages of practice and ensures he or she is able to function in day-to-day activities be it in the OR or clinic. A portion of your nursing program must be completed (typically 21 credits) before you’re able to sit for the CPNE. You are tested in your medical knowledge, assessing a patient’s possible illness, communicating your professional message to patients and their families, communicating with other medical staff and problem solving skills. Once you have qualified to sit for the exam, you can obtain formal study materials to prepare yourself for the CPNE.
One thing to watch out for when choosing a paramedic to RN program is to make sure the program is accredited and requires clinicals. Some states do not want to license an RN who has not completed clinicals, regardless of their degree or certification. This will pose a problem once your program is completed and you sit for the CPNE. Check the laws in your state and what the standard route is for becoming an RN to ensure your plan will put you in the same place once you’ve completed a program.
Paramedic to RN Degree Program Options
Below are two degree options that will help you make the transition from a paramedic to an RN:
- Paramedic to Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): An ASN/ADN is a 1-2 year nursing program, preparing students to take the NCELX to become a licensed RN. You must be a licensed paramedic and have a high school diploma in order to enroll in ASN/ADN programs. Sometimes programs also require you to have a minimum of 1 year of experience as a paramedic before entrance. With this degree you can pursue a career at a hospital, nursing facility, physicians’ offices, and healthcare clinics. Most ASN/ADN programs have internship or lab opportunities with a lot of hands-on experience, which provides students with practical nursing familiarly before entering the workplace. Occasionally these programs require prerequisite classes such as anatomy, physiology, human growth and development, and introductory nursing. It’s important to check with different schools programs’ requirements before applying to or accepting programs. Actual coursework within these programs vary depending on the school and online curriculum, although common courses include: pharmacology, nursing concepts, microbiology, healthcare systems, medical-surgical nursing, child health nursing, health and nutrition, and healthcare ethics.
- Paramedic to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): This degree allows paramedics to get a more advanced nursing training. This is typically a three to four year degree that is tailored to your experience and training as a paramedic. These programs often include courses specific to concepts that paramedics might be familiar with. Usually you need to have completed an accredited EMT-Paramedic (EMT-P) program before applying, and sometimes you even need a certification. Accelerated programs take 1 to 2 years and may require you to have completed general education courses before accepted to the program. Course curriculum for a BSN involves various scientific disciplines, including social, behavioral and natural sciences, pharmacology, patient assessment and medication administration, as well as courses in nursing technologies, children’s nursing, family health, nursing research, and leadership in nursing.
General Entry Requirements for Paramedic to RN Degree Programs
There are a few requirements that almost all accredited online paramedic to RN bridge degree programs will ask from their students. It’s important to know these so you can prepare yourself for the application process, and complete any unfinished requirements before applying.
- Accredited paramedic certification: The college or university you received your paramedic certification or degree from must be an accredited college. Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs provides a listing and search engine feature of different accredited programs, including paramedic programs. This is also a good resource to check when thinking of applying to paramedic to RN programs—make sure you attend a program that is accredited.
- License or certification: You must have a current paramedic license or certification as well as a high school diploma to enter an accredited paramedic to RN program. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians provides the entry requirements of certification as well as application and/or the certification process.
- GPA requirements: Usually programs have a GPA requirement of 2.5 or higher in both paramedic training and high school GPA. Your GPA is calculated by dividing the total amount of grade points earned by the total amount of credit hours attempted. Sometimes if you have strong standings in other areas of your application a program will waive the GPA requirements. It’s important to be in contact with specific programs about the guidelines if you’re concerned about the GPA component.
- High school transcript: Most programs will require you to provide your high school transcript. You will need to contact your high school to see if they (and/or the school district) have a website that offers transcript ordering online. Otherwise they can mail transcripts to colleges and universities that require them.
- ACT scores: Even if you took the ACT scores a few years before, you can have them sent to colleges and scholarship agencies. Some paramedic to RN programs will require ACT scores, as well as different scholarships and grants. It’s good to know of these requirements before applying to both.
- FAFSA: The FAFSA is the United States student federal aid program. This form won’t just provide you with federal loans, but it will also help you submit important information to potential scholarship and grant programs.
Benefits of an Online Paramedic to RN Program
There are many benefits for paramedics to become RN’s through online paramedic to RN bridge degree programs. If you’re a paramedic looking for a slight career change, then it’s good to pay attention to these benefits:
- Immediate salary increase of up to $35,000
- Increased autonomy, responsibilities, and respect
- Increased career mobility
- Less stressful work environment
- Opportunity to specialize in a specific area
- Increased job security
- Personal growth and satisfaction
- Unlimited career advancement options
- Advanced educational options
The average base salary per year for a paramedic is around $38,000. Most paramedics work between 45 and 60 hours a week and do not have a consistent schedule to rely on. RN’s starting salary averages at $55,000 per year and the hours are much more predictable, with set schedules and overtime pay. Completing this bridge program will pay itself off in a short amount of time due to the increased pay and decrease in hours that you must work once you become an RN.
Paramedics have some of the most stressful work out there. It’s not uncommon for paramedics to have mental breakdowns or stress induced disorders because of the high-pressure atmosphere of the job. It’s easy to become burnt out when working as a paramedic, too. Therefore you shouldn’t wait to become an RN—act now. The online bridge programs make it easy for you to continue working as a paramedic while obtaining your RN degree. There is no required class attendance or classroom activities, and therefore you can go to school around your other schedules. Having paramedic experience will also enhance your career as an RN. Dual experiences allow you to run full codes administering emergency medications and life support measures, such as intubation, without a doctor present.
A list of beneficial reasons to attend an online paramedic to RN bridge degree program include:
- Receive a degree from a prestigious and accredited university
- No classroom attendance
- No waiting lists
- Start course immediately
- Take courses at your desired pace
- Transfer credits from other courses or schools
- Earn credits at your own pace, in your own space
- Lower costs
Financial Aid Options for Paramedic to RN Programs
The FAFSA was previously mentioned as an important tool in getting both loans and scholarships and grants. There are also other outside sources with many financial aid options for RNs because it’s such a high demand position in the United States today. Usually scholarships are offered to students based on merit or talent and are often awarded based on a scholarships essay competition. You can begin your scholarship search through these organizations:
- Alpha Tau Delta
- The Health Occupations Students of America
- The CampusRN Scholarship Fund
- The Health Careers Foundation
There are also some grant options, which are like scholarships but based on financial need rather than merit. Grants are available through colleges, the government, and outside organizations. The following are some sources you can look into for grant funding:
- Federal Pell Grant
- Emergency Nurses Foundation Association
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- American Nurses Association
You also may qualify for loan repayment programs. If you work up to five years in a high-need area, you could have up to 85% of your student loans forgiven through this government program. Some employers also have programs available to assist paramedics with getting their degrees and becoming licensed as nurses, so it’s good to check with your current employer, too.
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