If you a Registered Nurse (RN) holding an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree seeking to advance your career by becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) or by moving into a Nurse Educator, Nurse Administrator, Nurse Executive, or Nurse Leader role in professional nursing practice and patient-centered healthcare delivery then pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is a logical next step. An MSN degree is also a logical stepping stone if you plan to later pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing.
The practice of nursing is ever changing as the healthcare needs of various populations and the healthcare delivery systems used to administer care continue to evolve. As a result, graduate nursing programs today teach nurses to employ innovative interdisciplinary approaches to solving various health problems. Nurses learn to promote health by working effectively with other disciplines and community services.
Campus, Online, and Hybrid MSN Programs
Colleges and universities offering graduate degrees in nursing deliver their programs in a variety of formats. There are three main delivery methods: fully campus-based, fully online, and hybrids. Often times, a given school offers multiple delivery methods to students. They do this primarily to accommodate the students’ diverse scheduling flexibility needs since many who are seeking an MSN are already employed at least part-time, if not full-time, as a Registered Nurse.
There are two major components required when earning a nursing Master’s degree: the coursework and clinical hours. How these two components are delivered to graduate students can vary widely between schools. So you will want to get clarification on the delivery methods offered by each school of interest to you.
It is rare today to find fully campus-based graduate nursing programs where all coursework and clinical hours must be obtained on campus, though programs leading to certification as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist are often, if not always, campus-based. It was once rare to find fully online programs as well, though these programs are becoming more common. The vast majority of MSN programs available today utilize a hybrid delivery model where the majority of coursework can be completed online; however, students are still required to visit the college or university’s campus infrequently for the completion of certain requirements.
The campus visits required by hybrid programs are often limited to once or twice per semester. Some programs may require visits once per month or even more often. Some programs may offer the required visits on weekends. Others may require them on weekdays. Some visits may be single day visits while others might require 2 or 3 consecutive days, depending on the requirement being fulfilled. These are all questions that you will want clarified when researching potential programs.
Clinical Hours for a Masters in Nursing
Graduate students working toward their Master of Science in Nursing are typically required to complete a significant number of hours working in a clinical setting. Depending on the school and program in question, it is not uncommon for students to be required to complete as many as 500 or 700 hours of clinical work. Certain programs like those leading to certification as a Certified Nurse Anesthetist might require far more hours of clinical work.
Where a student’s clinical hours can be completed might also vary widely from program to program. Some programs allow students to complete their clinical hours in any state where they are licensed as an RN. Others might require the student to be licensed as an RN and complete that work in the same state (or neighboring state) as where the college or university is located. This is another item for which you will want to gain clarification when researching potential programs.
Before starting your clinical hours, you will choose clinical preceptors to supervise your work. Preceptors typically have to be approved by the school offering the program. Students are often allowed to perform their clinicals in their own workplace unless the course for which they are performing the clinical work also requires that it be done in a particular type of clinical setting.
Opportunities for MSN Graduates
There are many reasons students might seek an advanced degree in nursing. But regardless of the track being pursued, MSN degree holders could be prepared for great career opportunities in clinical nursing.