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STLCC’s Bridge Course Offers Shorter Route to a Nursing Career

DJ Magee reached a point in his career as a paramedic where he wanted to find a new line of work. 

“As I've gotten older, I've come to realize that I'll want something else because some aren't physically able to do the job after age 60," said Magee, now 40.

After looking around, he decided to transition into nursing. He enrolled at St. Louis Community College and studied nursing at the Forest Park campus. 

DJ MageeHaving worked two decades as a paramedic, Magee said he felt prepared for the two-year program and, at times, found himself overly prepared when relearning information and skills he had been doing for years. 

Starting spring 2024, paramedics and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) who want to follow Magee’s lead by becoming registered nurses will have a shorter route to their new career. That’s because the College has been approved by the Missouri State Board of Nursing to admit licensed paramedics to the current LPN-to-RN bridge course.

This one-semester course allows paramedics and LPNs to earn a nursing degree in three semesters instead of four semesters. The newly named RN Bridge Course will begin at STLCC-Wildwood in spring 2024 and then transition to South County after improvements and updates at the facility are completed, likely in fall 2024.

Students will accelerate their nursing degree by taking a one-semester bridge course. Upon successful completion of that course, they’ll move directly into the second year of the nursing program, which is offered at all four of STLCC’s main campuses. 

According to Jordan Cooper, STLCC’s dean of nursing, the course builds on a student's previous health care experience, validates their hands-on skills essential to nursing care, and brings them up to speed with nursing's holistic model of care by covering all the topics in the traditional first year track.

The bridge course will be offered both in the spring and the fall, allowing students to make the transition when it’s most convenient for them.

“This is a great option for those ready for a new challenge but who want to continue to serve others in health care,” Cooper said. “It provides them a quicker path to a new career, and builds on the knowledge and experience they already have as a paramedic or LPN.”

After completing the bridge course, students can transition into the second-year nursing program at any of STLCC’s four main campuses.

“Once I decided nursing was going to be my path, I would have absolutely jumped on a bridge program,” Magee said. “That would have saved me a lot of time. My prior knowledge was completely unaccounted for as a student nurse.”

Steve Newcomb, assistant professor and program director for the emergency medical services program at STLCC-Forest Park, said for someone who has decided to transition from being a paramedic, staying in the health care field makes sense. Many paramedics serve as nurses as a side job or as a PRN – an on-call nurse – filling in whenever a hospital has a need. 

The bridge course provides an opportunity for a paramedic or LPN to get into a hospital setting more quickly. With years of experience doing much of the same work as registered nurses do, nursing is a natural fit. 

“Being a paramedic is incredibly rewarding and exciting, but sometimes you might want a change of scenery and different challenges,” Newcomb said. “You don’t want all that experience to go to waste, so nursing becomes a viable option for a second career.”

Magee said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the bridge program fill up quickly with paramedics looking to make the transition. 

“There are dozens and dozens of paramedics in the St. Louis area who want something like this,” he said. “This gives them an avenue to do something different using the same skills they already have. I think it’s a great thing.”

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