A dual Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program provides registered nurses (RNs) with specialized advanced training in a nursing field of their choice plus the practical aspects of public health, such as creating policy and running programs.
General Program Information
Graduates of an MSN/MPH dual degree program will have the option of either continuing their work as a nurse at a more advanced level or moving into the management level of public health programs. Public health nursing is a natural fit, of course. Nurses also might opt to spend some time overseas with a relief organization such as Doctors Without Borders, as this combination of skills is ideal for such work.
These programs generally take two to three years to complete, which is roughly on par with what it would take to go through each degree program separately. Programs are available that hold as much as 80% of the coursework online, but at minimum students will need to meet practicum requirements in person at a patient care facility.
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Nurses can usually pick an area of specialty to focus on in their MSN program. Some examples from existing programs include adult gerontology, pediatrics and psychiatric mental health.
The following courses are common to programs that a nurse with an interest in public health might take:
Epidemiology is a core course in many dual MSN/MPH programs, and it is one that is critical for nurses interested in public health work. Epidemiology covers how diseases form and spread, including those that are not contagious. Concepts covered in these courses include disease frequency, outbreak investigations, ethical issues, and screening for diseases.
Biostatistics courses cover the gathering of quantifiable data related to living things, particularly humans. Students learn analytic techniques for research and how to properly report data. Concepts covered in these classes include probability distributions, t-tests, analysis of variance and the use of statistics software.
Environmental health courses examine how factors in the environment have an effect on human health. Examples of items studied include pollutants in the air and water. Concepts covered in these courses include community health, occupational health, hazard exposure and the role of public health officials in protecting public safety.
Research in Nursing/Evidence-Based Practice
Nursing research courses cover evidence-based techniques that nurses can use to better make decisions. Concepts covered in these courses include appraisal of sources, understanding of patient preferences and clinical judgement.
MSN specialty tracks generally conclude with a practicum. This consists of time spent in an actual patient care facility, usually shadowing another nurse. The extent to which nurses can actually participate in patient care activities during their practicum varies with state laws.
Any MSN degree will require that the nurse already have completed at least a bachelor's degree, and will also usually require that they have been licensed as a registered nurse.
The student will usually have to apply to each school or department at the university independently and be accepted to both to be allowed in the dual degree program. MSN programs may also require a minimum GPA in prior nursing coursework as well as completion of at least one prior statistics course.
Some other more general requirements that can be expected with most programs include a resume, a personal statement and letters of recommendation. International students may be asked to take the TOEFL to demonstrate sufficient English proficiency. Some programs require that the student have recently taken the GRE as well.
The MSN/MPH is an obvious choice for RNs interested in moving into public health nursing, but it also opens up field of other possibilities. The modest length of the program makes it ideal for those looking to continue working while furthering their education.