This summer, Union College will launch its first online program—giving LPNs an opportunity to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing without the need to relocate. It will fill a market gap and help the nursing shortage. Many RN to BSN online programs are available nationwide, but few LPN to BSN programs exist. This program will complement Union’s existing on-campus LPN to BSN option.

“Creating an online option for the LPN-BSN program allows post-traditional students to continue working while they are completing their bachelor’s degree,” said Dr. Nicole Orian, chair of the Division of Nursing and dean of Online Education. “This design helps with the nursing shortage and creates accessibility for a group of students who might otherwise not be able to attend Union College.”

LPNs typically provide more basic nursing care—often in long-term care settings. While a nurse can earn an LPN license with one year of schooling, LPNs are limited in their scope of practice, earning potential, and where they can practice. In fact, many hospitals choose not to hire LPNs at all. Nurses with bachelor’s degrees have much broader opportunities to practice in specialty areas and move into leadership and management roles.

In October 2010, The Institute of Medicine released the landmark report The Future of Nursing, which called for increasing the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses in the workforce to 80 percent. A growing body of research shows education has a strong impact on a nurse’s clinical practice, and patients deserve the best-educated nursing workforce possible.

Designed for the working nurse

Courses will be eight weeks long with new courses starting every eight weeks. “The program has a fast pace, but it’s very doable,” said Kelly Boyd, online program director. Most students can complete their degree in just four semesters.

Before beginning the nursing courses, students must have completed 1,000 LPN clinical practice hours, which helps propel them through the coursework by acknowledging their clinical experience and decreasing required clinical hours in the program.

While most online programs require students to perform clinical rotations near the college, Union’s online program allows students to complete clinicals in locations conveniently located near them, which is a benefit to working and established nurses. In fact, they will only need to visit campus three times—giving them the opportunity to train in Union’s state-of-the-art simulation center.

The online program will offer the same faith-based, personal approach as Union’s on-campus program. Small class sizes and a Christian perspective mean Union’s graduates get the personal attention from professors they need to succeed. “Union is known for producing top quality nurses. We’ll offer that same quality in the online program, but implement it in a different way for a different student population,” Orian said.

While Union will initially accept applicants from within Nebraska, the plan is to roll out the program nationally. “This program will meet the demands of working professionals who want to pursue higher education,” said Boyd. “Our nursing  programs allow students work, school and life balance while they pursue their dreams.”

Boyd will serve as the program director, advising incoming students, making sure online students get the same quality of education and experiences as on-campus students, supporting professors and preceptors, and managing day-to-day activities. “As a graduate, I understand the culture of Union, and I want people to love their experience and time as Union College students, wherever they may be,” she said.

Learn more about how you can enroll as early as this summer by visiting

Lauren Schwarz is a Union College graduate and freelance writer based in Bozeman, Montana.