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Hospital-based programs were the first source of training for RNs in the United States. They were particularly popular in the 1920s and 1930s when approximately 2,000 programs could be found across the country. Numbers have declined since then, mainly because nursing education has moved into colleges and universities. According to the National League for Nursing, fewer than 100 hospital-based programs are available today.

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Becoming an RN with a Hospital-Based Diploma

If you want a lot of clinical experience before beginning your career as an RN, a hospital-based nursing diploma may be a good option for you.

Those numbers are reflected in today’s working nurses. According to the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration, 13.9 percent of RNs have a hospital-based diploma, 36.1 percent have an associate’s degree, and 50 percent hold a bachelor’s or graduate degree.

Contact your state’s board of nursing for a current list of hospital-based programs in your area.

What a Nursing Diploma Program Can Be Like

Programs vary from one to three years in duration depending upon the hospital. All require that you have a high school diploma or equivalent (GED). Some expect you to complete non-nursing prerequisite courses such as biology and math before you apply, and some work in conjunction with local colleges so that you can take prerequisites there. A few programs teach everything within their hospital system.

After completing prerequisites, you begin nursing classes. Hospital-based programs focus on clinical or practical experience as opposed to teaching comprehensive nursing theory, so from a skills standpoint you will be well-prepared to start your first job.

Getting Your RN License

Upon graduation you will take your RN licensing exam. Contact your state’s board of nursing to learn more about how to obtain your license. Most states also require you to obtain continuing education credits to maintain licensure.

General information about the RN licensing exam can be found at the National Council of State Boards of Nursing

RN Careers

RNs use their education and skills to care for patients. This includes both physical care and emotional care when someone is sick and also teaching patients to care for themselves and stay well.

Nurses can work in almost any healthcare setting. Your scope of practice, hours, and pay will vary depending upon your chosen specialty and work setting.

Other Education Options

You can also choose to get an associate’s degree in nursing from a community or junior college instead of a hospital-based diploma, or a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university. An associate’s degree is equivalent to a hospital-based diploma in terms of education or professional advancement. A bachelor’s degree enables you to work in a greater variety of professional roles and settings, and also acts as a springboard to a graduate education.

More Information and Resources:

American Nurses AssociationAmerican Student Nurses AssociationNational League for Nursing

List of Programs

Abington Memorial Hospital
Willow Grove,
  • Full-Time RN DiplomaACEN
Baptist Health Schools Little Rock
Little Rock
  • Registered Nursing (Traditional Track)ACEN
Beebe Medical Center
  • NursingACEN
Chamberlain College of Nursing
St. Louis
  • LPN to RN Bridge ProgramACEN
Chemeketa Community College
  • LPN to RN Entry ProcessACEN
Chesapeake College
Wye Mills
  • LPN to RN TransitionACEN
  • Paramedic to RN TransitionACEN
Cincinnati State Technical Community College
  • NursingACEN
Clark College
  • Associate Degree in NursingACEN
Cleveland State Community College
  • Online Nursing ProgramACEN
College of Central Florida
  • Associate Degree NursingACEN
Covenant Health System
  • Advanced Credit programACEN
  • Hospital-based Diploma programACEN
Firelands Regional Health System
  • 3-year Nursing DiplomaACEN
Frankford Hospital
  • Diploma in NursingACEN
Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development
  • Registered NursingACEN
Harrison College - Indianapolis East
  • Associate of Science DegreeACEN
Helene Fuld School of Nursing in Camden County
  • Nursing DiplomaACEN
Henderson Community College
  • Online Nursing AssistantACEN
Hillsborough Community College
  • Online AS Nursing BasicACEN
Holy Name Hospital
  • Registered NursingACEN
Indian River State College
Fort Pierce
  • Online Associate Degree NursingACEN
Lake Michigan College
Benton Harbor
  • One-Year RN CertificateACEN
Northeastern Hospital School of Nursing
  • Diploma in NursingACEN
Northland Pioneer College
  • AAS in NursingACEN
Ohio Valley General Hospital
McKees Rocks
  • RN Diploma programACEN
Reading Hospital and Medical Center
West Reading
  • Diploma Program in NursingACEN
Riverside Health System
Newport News
  • Professional Nursing ProgramACEN
Roxborough Memorial Hospital
  • Diploma Nursing ProgramACEN
Saint Joseph's Health Services of Rhode Island
North Providence
  • Diploma in NursingACEN
Savannah Technical College
  • Practical Nursing DiplomaACEN
Sharon Regional Health System
  • NursingACEN
St. Luke's School of Nursing
  • Diploma Nursing ProgramACEN
Trinity Health System
  • Nursing DiplomaACEN
UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside
  • RN diploma programACEN
Washington Hospital
  • Nursing DiplomaACEN
Western Pennsylvania Hospital
  • RN Diploma programACEN

Still Looking for a Nursing Program?

Here are some of the most popular nursing programs. On each page you will find a detailed writeup of the program, specific courses, and even schools that offer that program that are currently accepting applicants.