There are multiple ways a Registered Nurse can continue their education, and one of the most popular is the Master of Science in Nursing degree, or MSN. Nurses interested in managing a nursing staff, or working in Nursing Administration seek out an MSN program to help their candidacy.
Because so many nurses are continuing their education to the graduate degree level, universities and colleges created a Bridge, or Transitional program that helps them achieve their goals. Enter the RN to MSN program. An RN to MSN program allows current Nurses with an RN License to begin taking classes to earn their Master of Science in Nursing. A sample MSN course list is listed below for an idea of what types of courses you would take.
Here are the top considerations to keep in mind when looking at a Master of Science in Nursing Program in 2017:
- A RN license is required for all RN to MSN programs. To get your Registered Nurse license, you need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam. For some MSN programs, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is also required (view RN to BSN programs here.)
- Many RN to MSN programs allow you to choose a specialty track. There are quite a few to choose from. Generally,nurses choose a path of APRN (Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner) or MSN with a specialty. View the full list of MSN program specialties. Some of the more popular ones include Nursing Administration, Nursing Education, and Nursing Informatics.
- Many RN to MSN programs are available online. This allows currently employed RNs to keep working while earning their degree. View featured online RN to MSN programs accepting applicants.
- CCNE or ACEN accredited MSN programs. There are two accreditation boards that certify nursing programs. Both are the most highly regarded nursing accreditation at the program level that an MSN program can have. CCNE, or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, assembles multiple task forces to ensure standards in nursing. The ACEN, is the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Both the CCNE and ACEN work to build a common core of nursing standards and criteria for the accreditation of all nursing education programs.
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Why the RN to MSN?
If you are an RN with an Associates Degree in Nursing or diploma and want to go to graduate school, an RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) may be a good fit. The major sticking point for most Admissions staff at nursing schools is that you have a Registered Nurse license. This is a must for basically all RN to MSN programs.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), these programs are increasing rapidly because of demand. There are currently hundreds of programs in the United States with at least another 30 in development.
Admission to an RN to MSN program can be highly competitive. You need a current RN license and it helps to have a good GPA from your previous undergraduate training program. You may need to take prerequisite classes in such subjects as English, history, or math before applying. Some programs want a pre-screening interview, an essay or personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Having a few years of nursing experience under your belt is a plus.
RN to MSN Bridge Program Format
Depending upon which classes you’ve already taken before admission, a program may take three years or more to complete. At the beginning of your program you will complete the necessary bachelor’s degree content before moving on to the graduate core classes in subjects such as informatics, research, leadership, and nursing theory. You earn your remaining credits by taking electives that pertain to your specialty. Many programs offer part-time, evening, or weekend schedules and an online or hybrid format.
Master of Science in Nursing Tracks
Along with your MSN at graduation, many programs also confer a BSN. You will be prepared to move on to your chosen specialty track. There are a lot available, and it all depends on what path you want your career to take. Some choose to work within a clinical environment, while others prefer to teach other aspiring nurses or want to work within administration or business.
Below is a breakdown of the common MSN specialties and the common Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner specialties (APRN).
- Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Family Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Programs
- PMHNP Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Certified Nurse Midwife Programs
- Certified Nurse Anesthetist Programs
- The Online RN to MSN program at the University of Texas - Arlington is an accelerated program allows you to earn your MSN in less time—and save more money—than if you complete the RN to BSN and MSN programs separately.
- Simmons College - [email protected]' online RN to MSN program has a rigorous curriculum that helps prepare students to pass the FNP board certification exam on their first attempt and to become recognized as clinical experts, scholars, and leaders in their field.
Advancing from a MSN to a DNP Degree
With your MSN you can also advance to one of the highest degrees in nursing — a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. There are also Ph.D. in nursing degrees (fewer than DNP), and these are usually programs designed for academics interested in research.
Below are a few featured online RN to MSN programs that are currently accepting applicants. These universities have entirely online RN to MSN programs and they are all accredited. Simply click on their listing or the More Info button to get more information from their admissions department.
RN to MSN Online Programs
One of the top growing advanced nursing degrees is the RN to MSN online, or a specialty within the Master’s of Nursing degree. RN to MSN programs that can be completed completely online is convenient for nurses currently working in the field.
Online MSN programs provide online instruction which is just as thorough as traditional courses. The format of an Online RN to MSN program can include informative discussions, individual projects, and group analysis.
Some online programs have even bypassed in person learning in quality of education.
+ Jump to Online RN to MSN Programs Currently Accepting Applicants
What is an Online RN to MSN Degree?
To put it simply, an online RN to MSN degree program is designed for students to reach the top levels in the nursing profession without putting their current careers on hold. With the growth of online learning, and the innovations in technology, schools across the nation are helping students gain the proficiency they need to give patients better care, and assist physicians in their roles.
When you earn your Masters in Nursing online, you can qualify for several types of leadership and management positions, including chief nursing officer, nurse specialist, clinical research consultant, program director, and several others. You can also apply to work in a variety of healthcare environments, such as hospitals, community health centers, physical therapy, private practices, home-based care services, and retirement homes. You can also have the option to work as a nurse educator, sharing your knowledge and skills with the next generation of practitioners.
HELPFUL TIP: Ask your current employer if they offer tuition assistance or other help to inspire you to earn your RN to MSN. Many employers offer assistance, especially for existing nurses, but they may not advertise it well to employees.
If you are considering taking the next step in nursing, think about your long-term goals in the profession. Earning your RN to MSN degree online can give you a continuous path towards a graduate level education without the hiccups that can come with starting and stopping your education. Plus, there are hundreds of online programs to choose from that let you take 100% of your coursework online, with the ability to complete capstone or internship requirements in your current healthcare role. This will let you apply your learning in conjunction with your educational experience. Plus, many healthcare employers want the most knowledgeable and skilled workers to assist physicians. With your master’s level education, you can show your employer that you are serious about moving ahead in the field. Some healthcare environments create incentives for nurses to move up in their education. Ask your current employer if they offer tuition assistance or other help to inspire you to earn your MSN.
When you compare programs, be sure to look for options that are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). This accrediting body is officially recognized by the US Secretary of Education as the organization that identifies programs that are effective in educating nurses for work, according to laws, regulations, and expectations for high quality care. When you speak with each school, ask them about CCNE accreditation for their online programs. With the high quality of online education offered by top colleges and universities, you should have several options to consider when choosing a program.
How Long Does an Online RN to MSN Degree Take?
The length of time it takes to complete an RN to MSN degree program depends on several factors. First of all, many online schools offer accelerated programs that can get you on track towards degree completion in less than three years – which is the typical time-frame for finishing your MSN from start to finish. Most programs are designed for students who already have their associate’s in the field.
This type of program give students the chance to move through their degree completion without taking a break or switching schools, which can save time and cost of tuition. In some programs, students can save time because graduate level courses are integrated into the bachelor’s curriculum, which results in less classes that have to be taken at the master’s level. Some programs can help you earn your master’s in as little as two years.
Who is the RN to MSN Online Degree for?
The RN to MSN degree is well suited for students who have clear goals in the field of nursing. This is because many programs offer students specific tracks of emphasis in a variety of areas related to their interests and goals in the field. For instance, tracks and concentrations can include clinical nurse leader. nurse educator, health systems leadership, nursing management, and others.
The MSN program is especially suited for students who want to become leaders or educators in their healthcare facility. Through a nursing education track, you can share your expertise in nursing with budding professionals. A health systems leadership track helps you understand how to integrate business skills, organizational behavior, quality assurance, law, and the principles of nursing into your leadership role.
Students who want to help shape healthcare policy and and perform research-based roles can benefit from earning their master’s degree as well. The courses offered at the graduate level often help students understand the writing and methods that are required for making positive change and improvements on old methods and ways of applying patient care.
If you are unsure what specific trajectory you want your nursing career to take, that’s okay too. That’s why it is important to talk with several schools about where your career is now, and where it may go with the learning outcomes attached to their RN to MSN program and tracks.
Students who aren’t sure whether to pursue online or campus programs should strongly consider the online approach. Since so many campus-based programs integrate online learning into their courses, the lines are blurring, and the quality of education is identical. Most top-ranked universities and employers understand the world is changing and technology has taken over the classroom. When you speak with schools, ask what employers hire their online graduates, and if they notice a difference in the hiring rates for online vs. campus graduates.
Sample Top 5 Classes for an RN to MSN Program Online
- Advanced Pharmacology. When working with patients from all age groups and populations, you will need to understand how to help prescribe appropriate doses of medication. This course will help you understand pharmacology principles so you can help physicians who prescribe medicine to patients. After completing this course you should be able to understand the most commonly prescribed drugs and the differences between the drug classes. You should also understand the laws that govern and regulate drugs when doctors have to write prescriptions, and understand how treatment decisions are made in regards to drugs prescribed.
- Evidence-based Practice. This course is typically a mix of lectures, research and practice to understand how evidence based techniques improve patient care. You can learn how to search for evidence to back up your patient services, as well as how to integrate evidence into decision-making and how to measure patient outcomes. Students also study current trends in evidence-based decision-making and how to apply techniques in a variety of settings.
- Nurse Education. For students who want to teach nursing, this course will help you take your knowledge and skills to the front of the classroom so you can teach others effectively. This course will give you education skills that help you teach nurses who have different learning styles. This course can also teach you how to design curriculum and use current research to improve existing curriculum.
- Health Care Safety and Management. In order to help run healthcare facilities, you have to have knowledge of proper safety procedures as well as management skills to lead teams of nurses and ensure they are follow quality assurance protocols. This course may cover day-to-day operations, patient care, and information technology management.
- Contemporary Healthcare Environments. This type of course will help you understand the scope of legal and ethical principles you need to understand to be effective in high level nursing roles. You may research and learn about the ethical delivery of care to various populations, and relevant issues that impact policy in a variety of organizations. You may also learn strategies for developing and influencing policies in regards to how healthcare is delivered.
Why Consider a Master’s Degree in Nursing?
A great education is an important consideration for most individuals. An advanced nursing degree can provide for a better paying career and a better lifestyle overall. There are more educational opportunities coming available, making it easier for most people to get into college. Better financial aid, easier processing, and more employer assistance makes the college process even more simple for those wanting to pursue a degree program. With this availability, the importance of having a degree will grow beyond the scope of what can be seen now.
In the near future, graduate degrees may be the best option for those wanting to set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd. In most fields, a higher degree can ensure a higher position and more promotional opportunities in the future. As one of the most rapidly growing fields, healthcare is one that is home to a large number of college graduates. More people choose this field as their degree choice due to the large numbers of career opportunities and widespread availability.
Nursing schools, employers, students, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) are taking notice that more steps need to be taken to not only increase the number of nurses that have a Master’s of Science in Nursing degree, but to create industry-wide standards (called The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing – source, PDF) to ensure those nurses are the most educated across all of the specific disciplines that they can put into practice, across eveidence-based practice, quality improvement, how to measure different outcomes, knowledge of healthcare systems and industry, and administration, leadership, and management skills.
According to the AACN:
Nursing schools affiliated with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) voted at the Spring Annual Meeting to endorse The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing, a set of national standards for preparing nurses to have a high impact in the healthcare environment. These Master’s Essentials, an update to an earlier version adopted in 1996, reflect current and future nursing practice at the master’s level, which demands expert application of evidence-based practices, quality improvement methods, outcomes measurement, systems knowledge, and leadership skills.
What does that mean for someone looking at an RN to MSN program?
As noted, nursing schools and the AACN are taking notice and putting a heavy emphasis on exactly what graduate-level educated nurses with an MSN degree are learning and studying. This provides transparency to healthcare employers – meaning, they know what they will be getting with any nurse that has their Master’s in Nursing degree.
The medical and healthcare fields are a forever-changing field that requires its professionals to be the very best, so that patients are given on the most reliable care. At the center of this rapidly growing field, nurses are the most densely populated portion of the field, assisting physicians and provide patients with the care they deserve.
What Courses Can You Expect in a MSN Program?
There are quite a few graduate-level courses you can expect to take. Remember, these are graduate classes – they will be challenging, but that is the point. The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing details the specific skillset and knowledge base you should have a Master’s level graduate, regardless of focus, track, or major. Below are the specific foundational areas of study outlined by the document:
|Foundational Area of Study||Essential Area Summary and Description|
Sciences and Humanities
|MSN graduates integrate scientific findings from nursing, biopsychosocial fields, genetics, public health, quality improvement, and organizational sciences for the improvement of health and nursing care across many settings.|
Organizational and Systems Leadership
|Asserts that MSN graduates understand that organizational and systems leadership are critical to promoting high quality (and safe) care for patients, and that leaderships skills are necessary for ethical and critical decision making and effective relationships and systems.|
Quality Improvement and Safety
|Master's prepared nurses need to be able to articulate methods, tools, performance measures and standards for quality, and apply the principles to a healthcare organization.|
Translating and Integrating Scholarship into Practice
|Recognizes that the master’s-prepared nurse applies research outcomes within the practice setting, resolves practice problems, works as a change agent, and disseminates results.|
Informatics and Healthcare Technologies
|Recognizes that the master’s-prepared nurse uses patient-care technologies to deliver and enhance care and uses communication technologies to integrate and coordinate care|
Health Policy and Advocacy
|Recognizes that the master’s-prepared nurse is able to intervene at the system level through the policy development process and to employ advocacy strategies to influence health and health care.|
Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Outcomes
|Recognizes that the master’s-prepared nurse, as a member and leader of interprofessional teams, communicates, collaborates, and consults with other health professionals to manage and coordinate care.|
Clinical Prevention and Population Health
|Recognizes that the master’s-prepared nurse applies and integrates broad, organizational, client-centered, and culturally appropriate concepts in the planning, delivery, management, and evaluation of evidence-based clinical prevention and population care and services to individuals, families, and aggregates/identified populations.|
Master’s-Level Nursing Practice
|Recognizes that nursing practice, at the master’s level, is broadly defined as any form of nursing intervention that influences healthcare outcomes for individuals, populations, or systems. Master’s-level nursing graduates must have an advanced level of understanding of nursing and relevant sciences as well as the ability to integrate this knowledge into practice.|
RN to MSN Programs by State
MA to NJ
NM to SC
Why Nurses Get Their Master’s in Nursing
Located in the busy halls of local hospitals, nurses are constantly working hard to ensure that each patient is given the best care possible. For centuries, nurses have been the main source of care for patients suffering from sickness, disease, or even injuries. Nurses are the first face seen when entering into a medical facility and provide an irreplaceable helping hand to physicians. A great nurse is an asset to any medical facility.
It takes a strong-willed and dedicated individual to be a successful addition to the medical field. As a nurse currently working in the field, the need to stand-out is higher now than ever. Since nursing has grown to one of the most popular degree programs in the country, more nurses are looking for jobs after graduation. The job market experiences constant change, with jobs quickly being filled and new jobs opening.
For those nurses already working in the field, the need for advancement in their career may become an overwhelming desire. Working hard is not always the solution to getting better results from a career choice. In the midst of a busy work schedule, more nurses are finding it beneficial to get back into a higher degree program to truly get the most out of their career.
The Career Path of a Nurse is Evolving
Over the years, the nursing field has changed drastically. A lot of experienced nurses in the field are working at the associate’s degree level. These programs consisted of two vigorous years of education, including basic nursing principles and hands on application. Licensing requirements were a lot different years ago than they are more recently. It has only been within the last decade that different states determined that nurses should engage in further education before being considered for licensure.
Most states require that nurses have a bachelor’s degree at the very least before being released to work as a registered nurse. A bachelor’s program is useful for nurses seeking the minimum licensure requirements. However, this level of degree cannot guarantee a nurse the prestige that is needed to move up the ladder in the field of nursing. It can sometimes be difficult to move up in a position without years of experience or an even higher nursing degree.
Opportunity to Stand Out with an MSN
Master’s degrees in Nursing can be exactly what nurses need to stand out among others. A master’s degree is only a couple of years shy of a doctoral degree, but provides significantly more to those that carry them in comparison to bachelor’s degrees. Most nurses stop at the bachelor’s level, making master’s degree holders rare and desired by employers wanting only the very best employees.
RN to MSN programs provide current registered nurses with the opportunity to not only advance their career beyond what they could have imagined, but also provide vast information about the field of nursing at an even more advanced depth. While enrolled in an RN to MSN program, students will take courses that broaden their ability to manage patients as well as staff. Courses such as Evidence-Based Practice and Quality Improvement give master’s level learners the knowledge of personnel and how to handle delicate situations. These courses go beyond the original scope of nursing to nurture a more qualified nurse management professional.
Multiple Specialties Available
Regardless of which field is chosen, a higher degree in nursing can provide for more promotional opportunity and better wages in comparison to lower degree programs. The importance of higher degrees has grown in recent years, with the changing requirements for nursing licensure. More people are graduating at the bachelor’s level, lowering the prestige of this level of degree program.
In order to really get the most out of a higher degree program, nurses need to invest in a degree that will allow them to stand-out in comparison to their peers. A bachelor’s degree only gives nurses the minimum requirement for their career. A master’s degree can provide a foundation for a progressive career from day one. The information gained in master’s level programs will provide for experienced and highly educated nurses that are qualified for any position throughout the field. Most nurses at this level are hired in higher positions, overseeing a staff of nurses or working with doctors directly to determine the most effective treatment program for patients in need of care.
Typical Curriculum for a Campus Based RN to MSN Program
RN to MSN programs typically require 87 credit hours at a minimum. These hours include an array of undergraduate courses in nursing science as well as communication. Graduate course requirements are also included.
Some RN to MSN programs can take three to four years and requires students to take part in reflective practice and practice experience. This program integrates both the completion of a bachelor’s level degree as well as a master’s level degree. It not only saves time, but also saves money by combining the two programs in a way that flows well for busy students.
What You Should Learn During Your RN to MSN Degree Pursuit
In the RN to MSN program, students are given extensive knowledge into the personal attributes of different patients. Cultural differences and communication styles are a very important aspect of the field of nursing. Each patient is different and may require a different method of personal treatment. It is vital that nurses have the knowledge to correctly treat each patient that enters a facility.
Higher level nurses are given the skills necessary to effectively communicate with individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures, making them an irreplaceable asset to their respective facilities. They are also educated in the importance of leadership and how to project an effective leadership style. In such a busy atmosphere, a productive leader sets the stage for how well a staff of nurses will perform. These skills go well beyond what the average nurse will learn in a bachelor’s degree program, which is why those carrying graduate degrees will be more likely accepted in management positions in hospitals and private practices.
As a master’s level nurse, individuals can get even more involved in patient care and employee development. Master’s level degree holders can access patient records and even recommend treatment programs. They are an asset to the companies in which they work, providing expert advice to lower level nurses and even patients. Some nurses decide to go into research fields, which is a very in-depth field that requires experience and dedication.
The research field contributes greatly to the field of nursing, making more effective treatment choices and providing more techniques for current nurses to use within the field. Managing nurses are typically master’s degree holders and are in charge of lower level nurses. These individuals are given a large amount of responsibility within their position and are required to oversee the practices within their field of view. This job is what a lot of nurses strive to achieve and it can easily be obtained with a higher degree. When employers seek to fill a higher level position, it is necessary that an applicant not only have the work experience required, but also a degree that reflects his or her profound knowledge of the field of nursing.
5 Nursing Organizations You Should Know
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. This organization is important in the field of nursing because they are the “national voice for baccalaureate and graduate nursing education”, according to their website. They help create and influence current standards in the practice of nursing, and help schools implement effective curriculum at the undergrad and graduate level. They also perform research and data services for schools to provide insightful statistics relevant to nursing education.
Foundation of the National Student Nurses Association. This can be a resource if you want to find help with tuition for nursing school This foundation was created in 1969 to help with charitable and education causes in the field of nursing. They award scholarships to nursing students who are seeking careers in all areas of the practice.
American Psychiatric Nurses Association. This is the largest organization dedicated to helping those who focus on psychiatric mental health based nursing practice. Their goal is to help members advance in their careers through education programs, scholarships and other helpful resources. Even if you are not focused on psychiatric nursing, this can be a good organization to learn about for networking purposes.
Emergency Nurses Association. Working in emergency services is a big part of nursing, which explains the need for this great organization. They help practitioners share resources to improve the quality of emergency care in all respects of nursing. Today, the ENA has over 40K members and plays an influential role in shaping policy and advocating for the nursing profession.
American Nurses Association. If you are entering the field of nursing, this may be the first organization you check out to further you career and network with like-minded professionals. Their website can give you a wealth of information about the practice of nursing, as well as career resources that can help you in your current role. They have several benefits for members, including yearly conferences where you can meet others who have dedicated their lives to healing others.
There are many considerations and options for you if you are considering earning your RN to MSN degree. Be sure to compare plenty of online programs and learn more about the organizations designed to help nurses be successful in the field. With the right education and approach to networking, you can set yourself up for long-term success in the field.
Salary and Career Opportunities for Nurses with an MSN Degree
As a means of financial stability, obtaining a master’s degree in this field is a providing choice. As part of the medical field, most assume that nurses make high wages due to their correlation to doctors and other specialists. In the past, nursing was one of the highest paying positions at only an associate’s degree and continues to hold a similar reputation even with the standards changing to a minimum bachelor’s level requirement.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses with higher degrees can earn anywhere from $71,000 to over $100,000 per year. These wages are outstanding for a career in the nursing field, with most individuals having a salary between the two figures. Depending on the chosen area for working, nurses will find that some areas are more providing than others. In western states such as California and Arizona, the demand for nursing is continuously high.
The turnover rates in these areas are high, providing new job openings on a regular basis. The need for qualified professionals at a higher degree level remains high, since most graduates are only at an undergraduate level.
Areas of Opportunity
For those in the eastern United States, states such as Pennsylvania and Florida are looking for qualified master’s degree holders to fill their positions. These areas also present a strong need for professionals, with demand relatively higher than the overall supply. Factors such as population growth and the growing elderly population contribute to a growth in demand for nurses. The BLS reports and projected growth in the demand for nurses through the year 2020.
Where You Can Work as an MSN Graduate
Master’s level nurses are a source of information, relevant health advice, and achievement within a hospital. These nurses can work in all fields of nursing, including specialties such as sports medicine, schools, or private practices. Having a highly educated nurse on staffs communicates expert care to patients needing direct assistance. The ability to communicate effectively with a number of diverse groups means that nurses of this degree can spread their expertise into community health practices and even research theories. There is truly no end to the potential for nurses that go forward with a master’s degree.
The nursing field has been one of the most popular career choices for individuals for many years. This field is one of the most providing for the community, providing assistance to those suffering from illness and injury. Those that currently work in the field have experienced a large amount of change in recent years, requiring them to consider getting back into college to pursue higher degree programs.
Which program is chosen can be the deciding factor in whether an individual works at the entry level or progresses to higher positions throughout his or her career. Bachelor’s degrees are now the minimum requirement for nurses, making it a highly sought out degree for those currently studying. For those that are seeking a more advanced degree that provides more career opportunities and higher positions, RN to MSN programs are the best choice.
These programs include the importance nursing techniques and procedures that sculpt the most effective nurses, all while providing a business-oriented, socially diverse, management professional. There is no better option for those seeking a career that will provide for families and promote a sense of satisfaction throughout the duration of their lifetime.
RN to MSN: The Right Program for You
Written by Kelli Dunham, RN, BSN
If you’re thinking about getting your MSN and you don’t yet have a BSN, an RN to MSN (often called “bridge”) program might be a great choice. Before you select a program you’ll need to think about the change it will create in your nursing role, count the cost, and consider how you’ll work your clinical rotations into your schedule.
Obtaining an MSN can lead to many different career tracks in addition to strengthening your overall practice as a nurse. You can enroll in RN to BSN programs that lead to specific clinical tracks like nurse practitioner, nurse midwife or nurse anesthetist. You can also enroll in RN to MSN programs that train nurses for roles in administration, nursing education or community health.
It’s important to understand not only the advantages of seeking an RN to MSN on any given path but also the way the different MSN roles function and whether you will enjoy working in that role.
One recent RN to MSN graduate, Ann Snyderman, describes her process this way “I started a nurse anesthetist program at least partly because the promise of a much increased rate of compensation. But when I started clinical rotations, I realized I just wasn’t satisfied spending most of my time with patients while they’re asleep. I changed to a community health RN to MSN track even though I pretty much had to start over. I love my new job in the health department so it was very much worth it.”
Whatever advanced track you are most interested in, whether it’s management, education, or the clinical specialties such as nurse practitioner or nurse midwife, try to spend some time shadowing a nurse working in that position. You’ll get a better idea of what advanced practice role is best for you.
Count the Cost
One of the main disadvantages of a pure bridge program (ie that doesn’t confer a BSN halfway through) is that a pure bridge is usually not considered an undergraduate degrees granting programs and so you won’t be available for federal and state financial aid for the degree. Check with the programs you’re interested in to see if their paperwork designates a BSN granting program in the interim.
If you’re working currently working as a nurse, you may be able be eligible for tuition reimbursement from your institution, but make sure you check out the fine print. Some programs come with a stipulation that you stay with the institution for a certain time after graduation or pay back the money they gave you to go to school.
In an uncertain economy, a specific time commitment may seem more like a promise than a requirement, but this can also cause unintended consequences as well. For example, if you’re working a staff nurse on a med/surg floor for two years after your graduate with your family nurse practitioner, your skills might get rusty. Because of this, you might want to check if your institution ever hires advanced practice new grads, so you can work within your new role while still completing your required years of employment.
One of the biggest challenges nurses in RN to MSN programs report is the difficulty of working clinical rotations into an already tight schedule. For example, a staff nurse who works 7 am-7 pm might struggle to find a clinical rotation in a nurse practitioner program that doesn’t take place during the daytime hours when primary care clinics are usually open.
Before you select a program, it’s important to ask about the availability of clinical rotations outside the 9-5 weekday hours if you don’t have any of these hours available. If none of the programs in your area have any flexibility, or if it simply isn’t practical (for example, in a nursing administration program) you might need to consider a change to more weekend or even (alas) night shifts.
Leah Strock, a New York based family nurse practitioner working in an NIH HIV prevention study, explained how she juggled her clinical time during her RN to MSN process: “I decided I needed to be prepared to have no life, if you are committed to school you’ll spend a lot of time studying and working and there is no leisure time at all.” She then adds “Of course, it was the best thing I ever did, I got people breaking down my doors for a job, every week I get a phone call, ‘Hi we’re looking for an FNP’ “.