The Rx for success: LPN to RN pathway at Northeast State

In a rapidly changing industry landscape, health care professionals are asked to maximize their skills and take on more responsibility for patient care.

A new federal grant gives Northeast State’s division of Nursing a new academic option providing licensed practical nurses a pathway to become registered nurses in three semesters. The RxTN option is funded through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant awarded in September of 2012.

“To enter the program an applicant must have current LPN license,” said Laura Jones, LPN-to-RN Program coordinator for Northeast State Nursing. “If they are accepted they would enter their first nursing course in summer of 2014.”

The program’s prior learning assessment (PLA) gives academic credit to LPNs a current LPN license. The PLA credit allows these students to complete the program in three semesters rather than five.  The program’s participants earn an applied associate of science degree in Nursing.

Nurses are being asked to much more in health care.
Nurses are being asked to do much more in health care.

Dr. Melessia Webb, dean of Nursing at Northeast State, said the first LPN class will accept 25 applicants. The class will move together as a cohort through the three semesters.

“The program is going to be fast-paced,” said Webb.  “We do encourage them to apply by the March 3, 2014 deadline.  If they are not accepted then, they can still apply with the traditional nursing student application deadline in June 2014.”

Nursing students study a variety of care specialties including but not limited to obstetrics-gynecology, mental health, and geriatrics.  Students also study comprehensive care management and leadership.

Webb explained that the area is still experiencing a nursing shortage with a continued need for additional registered nurses. She said the LPNs who complete the option and become licensed registered nurses would have a more extensive scope of practice,thus leading to more career options.

“The demand for registered nurses is significantly up across the nation,” said Webb. “Right now two-thirds of the workers in the health care industry are nurses.”

LPN to RN students will have access to all current Nursing program resources.
LPN to RN students will have access to all current Nursing program resources.

With the academic and clinical demands of the project, the grant stipulated that the RxTN program place a big emphasis on retention and graduation of participating students.  According to its brief, the RxTN Program provides special advisement and access to completion coaching for participating students.

That duty falls to Nursing faculty member Tammy Pennington who will direct coaching, advisement, and support for applicants accepted into the LPN to RN option.

“We will meet with these students every week and they will have all the resources available to them that our current nursing students have,” said Pennington. “Whatever the student needs – be it financial, personal issues, help with study skills – they can come to their coach and we’ll point them in the right direction.”

Webb noted that industry projections suggested there would be 1.2 million job openings for registered nurses by 2020.  Of that number, 470,000 would be filled by registered nurses with associate degrees.

Northeast Nursing graduates enter the workforce as registered nurses.
Northeast Nursing graduates who pass the NCLEX exam enter the workforce as registered nurses.

According to the Alliance for Business & Training (AB&T), current job openings for registered nurses are keeping pace with nursing school graduates entering the career ranks.  The demand for license practical nurses has demonstrated a drop-off with only one opening for every five LPN graduates entering the workforce, according to AB&T data.

The RxTN Program created a consortium of the Tennessee Board of Regents’ 13 community colleges and 27 technology centers that received funding.  Nursing faculty members expect a significant number of non-traditional students to apply for the LPN-to-RN program.

“We believe that with more non-traditional students applying for this transition program, they will be balancing more than their class work,” said Pennington. “That is why the coaching component of this program is being implemented with the program.”

To apply for the LPN-to-RN program, visit web page to print an application for the program.  For questions about the program, email or

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