Many registered nurses (RN) decide to advance their skills by pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). An RN to MSN program is the quickest and most cost-effective way to achieve MSN status. The qualification will open up new career paths and put you in a strong position when applying for leadership roles in the nursing field. You will have the opportunity to specialize in the area that you love, enhance your clinical skills, and boost your long-term salary potential.
There are countless benefits to earning an MSN qualification. That said, enrolling in an RN to MSN is a big commitment that will require hard work and financial investment. You must have a good understanding of the work involved and plan your study schedule well to achieve your learning goals. If you are considering taking a course like this, then here is the ultimate survival guide for MSN student nurses.
What is an RN to MSN program?
Experts at nurse.org explain how “RN to MSN programs are bridge programs for registered nurses that do not have a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) but want to earn an MSN or complete a BSN and an MSN simultaneously.” Essentially, an RN to MSN degree is an accelerated program that allows registered nurses to earn MSN status without having to complete a BSN separately. Enrolling in an RN to MSN program is the best option for registered nurses who want to advance their clinical skills and progress in their careers as quickly as possible.
An MSN degree is designed to prepare nurses for senior positions, and the course covers a wide selection of nursing topics. This includes patient care, health assessment, nursing management, and ethics. An program like this will also allow you to specialize in a particular area of nursing, such as pediatric care or family practice. This will be discussed in more detail below.
How will an MSN degree benefit you?
An MSN degree can open up lots of doors for nurses. There is a huge demand for MSN nurses, and job opportunities in the field are expected to grow by more than 31% in the next seven years. There is an increasing need for healthcare professionals due to advancements in medical technologies and an aging population. This means that the job outlook for MSN nurses is expected to continue to improve over the next decade. Nurses who complete an RN to MSN degree benefit from excellent job security and access to diverse job opportunities.
Completing an RN to MSN program can also have a significant impact on your earning potential. MSN nurses receive higher salaries when compared to registered nurses without an advanced degree. The salary you receive will depend on several factors such as your level of experience, where you live, and your nursing specialty. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse anesthetists are the highest-paid MSN nurses and earn an average of $189,190 per year. Other well-paid MSN nursing positions include nurse midwife, clinical nurse leader, and nurse practitioner. Enrolling in an RN to MSN program can be an excellent way to improve your salary outlook and boost your financial position.
How quickly can you complete an RN to MSN program?
Most RN to MSN programs take between 18 months and three years to complete. The time it takes you to finish the program will vary depending on whether you have a BSN and whether you choose to study on a full or part-time basis. If you enroll in an accelerated RN to MSN program and already have a BSN degree, then you should be able to complete the course in 18 months or less. Whereas, it may take you 3+ years to earn an MSN if you go into the course without a BSN and choose to study part-time. Keep this in mind when you are considering different courses and choose a program that will suit your lifestyle and learning preferences.
Can you earn an RN to MSN degree online?
Technology has revolutionized the education sector, and most qualifications can now be earned online from the comfort of your home. There is a huge selection of educational facilities offering online RN to MSN programs. Completing an MSN via distance learning offers countless benefits over conventional classroom learning sessions. The biggest advantage of choosing an online degree is that you will have much more flexibility over your learning. You can study at a time and place that is convenient for you and can choose to work alongside studying. This makes online MSN courses the ideal choice for nurses who are already in employment or have families to think about.
If you are considering an online RN to MSN program, then make sure you research the course beforehand and understand what will be involved. Distance learning has many benefits, but it also presents students with unique challenges. For example, online programs have less direction from an instructor, and you will be responsible for your learning tasks and study pace. To be successful at distance learning, you must be extremely self-motivated and driven when it comes to your learning. Keep this in mind when weighing up the pros and cons of online vs. campus-based courses. You can also opt for online MSN programs that have limited classroom visits and some campus-based components. This could be a good option for students who want to combine the flexibility of an online course with the support offered by a campus-based program.
Can you choose a nursing specialty?
Many MSN nurses choose to specialize in their preferred area of nursing. Becoming a nurse specialist will allow you to expand your skills and become an expert in your chosen field. Specialist nurses also enjoy other job perks such as better salaries and wider job opportunities. The specialism that you choose on your program will have a big impact on your future job role and responsibilities. With that in mind, you must explore the different specialism and choose a nursing topic that suits your skills, expertise, interests, and work preferences. Here are the top MSN nursing specialisms according to NurseJournal:
- Adult-Gerontology – An adult-gerontology nurse is an advanced practice nurse who treats patients of all ages, from adolescents to seniors. Adult-gerontology nurses tend to offer a wide range of healthcare services. However, they can also choose to specialize in a particular area of adult health, such as diabetes or palliative care.
- Nurse Anesthetist – A nurse anesthetist is responsible for administering anesthesia and providing patient care before, during, and post-surgery. Nurse anesthetists usually work in operating rooms, surgery clinics, or intensive care units. They are a key member of the surgical team and have a big responsibility when it comes to the health and well-being of their patients.
- Midwifery – A midwife is a trained healthcare professional who focuses on all aspects of women’s reproductive health. Midwives most commonly help women before, during, and after labor and care for the well-being of women and their babies. They also offer pre and post-natal care to help women adapt to motherhood.
- Orthopedics – Orthopedic nurse practitioners are advanced nurses who work with patients who are suffering from musculoskeletal issues. This may be the result of injuries, diseases, or chronic illnesses such as osteoarthritis.
- Psychiatric Nurse Practioner – A psychiatric nurse concentrates on mental health. They are responsible for diagnosing and treating a wide variety of mental health issues, including eating disorders, depression, and personality disorders. Psychiatric nurses can work in any setting that offers mental health services. This can include hospitals, schools, prisons, and private clinics.
Choosing a nursing specialism is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. You must specialize in an area that is well matched to your skills and work preferences. One of the best ways to gain experience in the different areas of nursing is by completing placements and internships. Try to build nursing experience in a diverse range of healthcare settings. This will give you insight into the different areas of nursing and help you choose the right specialism for you. Take a look at this article by Chron for advice on how to gain valuable experience as a nurse.
How can you pay for an MSN degree?
Gaining an MSN qualification is not going to be cheap. A study by U.S. News found that most online MSN programs cost between $35,000 and $60,000. The total cost of completing an RN to MSN degree will depend on factors such as the reputation of the course provider, the location, and whether you already have a BSN qualification. Earning an MSN is a big financial commitment, and you must think carefully about how you are going to pay for the course fees. If you don’t have savings to cover the costs of your program, then don’t panic. There is a lot of financial aid available to support MSN students.
There are plenty of scholarships available to support student nurses on advanced programs. Scholarships can either be merits-based (awarded on grades) or needs-based (awarded on personal circumstances, e.g., to low-income families). Scholarships can be awarded to cover all or part of your MSN tuition and maintenance fees. Make sure that you apply for scholarships early and take the time to write an impressive application that will impress scholarship providers.
Grants are usually needs-based and awarded to students who would be unable to complete an advanced nursing qualification without financial support. Grants provide students with financial aid and don’t need to be repaid. Make sure that you research what nursing grants are available and apply for any financial aid that you’re eligible for.
· Student loans
Many nursing students apply for a student loan to cover the cost of an RN to MSN program. Most people are eligible for a student loan, they have low interest rates, and you don’t need to repay the loan until you are earning over a certain threshold.
· Employer contributions
MSN nurses are highly sought-after, and many healthcare employers will upskill their employees by funding an RN to MSN qualification. If you are considering completing an MSN degree, then you should always speak with your employer to ask whether they would consider funding or contribute to the cost of your MSN program.
Make sure to spend plenty of time looking over the different options you have available to you and if in doubt reach out to experts who can offer advice to you.
Tips for surviving (and thriving) as an MSN student
Studying for an MSN is hard work, and you are likely to feel stressed or overwhelmed on occasions. You must make your health and well-being a priority while you are studying and find ways to unwind and fight study-related stress. Getting organized early on and sticking with a consistent study schedule will help you work to deadlines and avoid feeling under too much pressure. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for assessments and plan regular study breaks to reduce the likelihood of stress or burnout. Taking this approach to learning should improve your academic performance and help you remain engaged in your learning tasks.
You should also adopt healthy lifestyle habits like exercising several times a week, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep. Sleep is also fundamental to your health, and you should aim to get between 7 and 9 hours a night. Taking good care of your mind and body will help you stay healthy and be better prepared to deal with the challenges of an RN to MSN program.
Completing an MSN is a great stepping stone for any nurse hoping to advance in their career and secure a higher-level position. An RN to MSN program will help you achieve MSN status in the shortest possible time. You will have the opportunity to expand your clinical skills and specialize in the area of nursing that you love. Completing an MSN is a challenge, but it can bring about several great rewards. The above advice will help you plan for MSN success and get the most out of your program.