RN to MSN Programs

RNs with a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree can advance their career through RN to MSN programs that are typically available in flexible formats. Find out more about the program, including some common coursework and admissions requirements.

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Registered Nurse (RN) to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree programs are widely available on-campus and online. These programs are intended for RNs who currently hold a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in nursing, though some RN to MSN programs may allow students to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) along the way. RN to MSN programs are usually accelerated programs that can be completed in as little as 15 months. Explore these degree programs and some of their requirements here.

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Information for RN to MSN Programs

It is fairly common for RN to MSN programs to include a capstone course and require at least one course in statistics. Some courses may vary for the MSN portion of the program based on a student's chosen specialty track, such as nurse practitioner or nurse administrator, but here we discuss a few of the common courses found in these programs.

Population Health

Most RN to MSN programs require a course in population health that trains students to assess and recommend changes to various health issues in specific populations and/or communities. Some of these classes may focus on vulnerable populations and how to help reduce risk through interventions and health promotions. Courses may also examine the influence of factors like healthcare policy, case management and health issues across the lifespan on disease prevention.

Systems Leadership

Students in courses that explore systems leadership discuss the organizational and leadership concepts specific to healthcare. These courses take an in-depth discussion of safety concepts, quality improvement, performance improvement and attitudes concerning patient care. Some of these courses may include a set amount of hours for practical application of the skills and attitudes discussed.

Healthcare Business

RN to MSN programs typically include at least one course that covers the business principles in healthcare. Some of these courses take a broad overview of healthcare business, while others may specifically focus on the management and financial side of the business. Broad courses may include topics in organizational structure, resource allocation and entrepreneurship, while management and finance courses focus on decision making models, accounting principles and cost/benefits analysis.

Evidence-Based Practice

Many MSN portions of the RN to MSN degree program include a course that discusses the role of evidence in clinical practice. These courses help students learn how to analyze and apply evidence to clinical practice. They also explore how evidence is used to validate and/or endorse improvements, as well as how to begin implementing the improvements.

Patient Care Technologies

Students in patient care technologies courses gain exposure to current technologies and information systems in the field of nursing. Some of these courses may also discuss the ethical and legal issues concerning information technology in healthcare. Specific topics in these courses may include electronic health records, interprofessional practices, coordinated patient care delivery, standardized terminology and data integrity and mining.

Common Entrance Requirements

As mentioned, most RN to MSN degree programs require applicants to hold a nursing diploma or undergraduate degree and a current RN license. It is also fairly common for these degree programs to have a minimum GPA requirement that usually ranges from a 3.0 to a 3.5. Some of these degree programs may also have specific work experience requirements, such as two full years of RN work experience. Applicants to these programs may be asked to include their official transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume/CV and/or a personal statement with their application.

RN to MSN degree programs are available online and on-campus to help students with a nursing diploma or undergraduate degree advance to leadership positions in the field. These are usually accelerated programs and typically include a culminating capstone course.

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