There are several pathways for medical assistants to become an RN. Luckily, they have many of the basics already done. Students enrolled in nursing programs spend the first part of the program learning basic nursing tasks such as injections, collecting data, and taking vital signs. MAs have already been trained to perform these tasks in their MA program. Therefore, MAs may benefit from MA to RN bridge programs or other alternative pathways to become an RN.
MA to ADN Pathway
This is the quickest way for an MA to become an RN. Associate degrees (ADN/ASN) are typically offered through community colleges and can take two to three years to complete. However, medical assistants may be able to apply some of their prior coursework from an MA program towards the nursing prerequisites. Courses that may be transferred are dependent on the MA program/school. If the courses were taken through a community college, it might be easier to apply the classes.
MA students with a long-term goal of becoming an RN can simplify (and possibly shorten) the path by completing an MA program with transferrable courses. Sometimes, MA programs will outline which courses are transferable to other educational institutions.
MA to BSN Pathway
This is a bit more of an extended pathway. Bachelor’s degrees in nursing (BSN) may be earned in three to four years. BSN-prepared RNs may have an edge when it comes to getting hired and may also be recruited into leadership roles. They can also work in areas such as public health. Additionally, if the MA eventually wants to pursue a master’s degree (MSN) or become an NP, a BSN program is probably the best option.
Depending on the BSN program as well as the MA’s previous education, courses may be transferrable – but students should always check with the school.
MA to LPN to RN (BSN or ADN)
This pathway may take a little longer, but it is beneficial if the MA wishes to gain experience along the way or determine if nursing is still the desired goal. For MAs wanting to become RNs, becoming an LPN (licensed practical nurse, referred to as a licensed vocational nurse or LVN in some states) is a great “stepping stone.” It is a shorter path to the nursing field – programs may be as short as twelve months and as long as two years (depending on the LPN program).
Students should be cautious; some organizations allow for “MA to LPN bridge”- but it’s vital to ensure the program is accredited, and that the school is an acceptable learning institution per the individual’s state nursing board. Again, some MA courses may be transferable to the LPN program.
Once the MA has become an LPN and has gained clinical experience, he or she may move on to an LPN to RN program.
Another option for MAs looking to become RNs is to “test out” of certain required courses. For example, Achieve Test Prep offers a program in which medical assistants can test out of required prerequisite nursing courses, thereby shortening the time it takes to complete an RN program. The program is not 100% online – some classroom attendance at a community college is required. Examples of courses that MAs can test out of are Sociology, English, Psychology, and Algebra.
It’s important to note that this is not a bridge program; students may essentially test out so they will not have to take a full semester of the applicable courses. However, students should ensure that the program is recognized in their state and by the RN program they eventually choose.