Direct Entry MSN
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Direct Entry MSN

What is a Direct Entry Master’s in Nursing?

Have you already earned your bachelor’s degree but are now thinking of a career change to nursing? Are you interested in getting an advanced degree beyond a BSN? If so, then a direct entry master’s in nursing program may be just the path for you. These programs are designed for people who have a bachelor’s degree in something other than nursing. During the program you will be first trained as a nurse and sit for the NCLEX, and then you will complete the program to earn your masters. You may also hear direct entry programs being referred to as “accelerated” nursing programs. After completing these programs you will have earned your master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or a master’s of science with a nursing major. Either way these degrees will prepare you to practice as a nurse at the advanced level. These two degrees are seen as equal within the nursing profession. Be sure to thoroughly check the entrance requirements for the schools you are thinking of applying to. Often you will be required to have taken pre-requisite courses such as anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, microbiology, human developmental psychology and more. With your MSN you will be able to provide direct patient care as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).

Why Should I Earn a Master’s in Nursing?

Going for your master’s is a great way to get an advanced degree that will enable you to care for patients through assessing, diagnosing, and treating them. Earning a master’s will enable you to utilize evidence based care and impact the health care system as a whole. With a master’s degree you will have a greater understand of health, patient, and population needs as well as how the whole system works. This will give you the tools to do what you came into nursing to do: make positive change in the world. You will be able to provide quality As a master’s prepared nurse you can improve patient quality of care and safety, lead healthcare teams, enhance healthcare delivery, train other health professionals, and engage in valuable research. As a master’s prepared nurse you will not only have more autonomy and be able to advance your career, but will also have a higher salary.

Entrance Requirements for Direct Entry Programs

  • Bachelor’s degree: A bachelor’s degree is the minimum degree requirement for these programs, but it doesn’t have to be in nursing!
  • GRE: The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required for most master’s programs inside and outside of nursing. Be sure to send your scores to your schools!
  • Complete pre-requisites: Check with the schools you are applying to and see what courses you need before applying. This way you know you have everything taken care of when you hit submit on that application.
  • Letters of recommendation: Compile a list of and contact the people you want to write your letter(s) of recommendation. School applications will tell you how many you need.
  • GPA: Check the GPA requirements of the schools you are applying to. Minimums are often around a 3.0
  • Submit applications: Once you have everything put together write your essays, answer the application questions, and submit it with your required materials such as transcripts from your pre-requisites and bachelor’s degree. You may also need to pay an application fee.
  • Interview: Some of your schools may require interviews. If so, good luck!

How Long Does it Take to Complete a Direct Entry Master’s Program?

Program length varies but you can expect it to take between 2-3 years. Some programs will require that you work as an RN during a period of around 6 months during the program. This may increase the total amount of time of the program for you, but this experience will be valuable.

Online Direct Entry Programs

Like many advanced degrees nowadays there are online options. You will still need to complete the required clinical hours in person. Depending on your program you may have a few classes in person, but otherwise you should be able to complete the majority through the comfort of your home or chosen work destination. This means classes, assignments, discussions, and quizzes may all be online. You may even be connecting to your classes for live sessions where all of the students and the professor are able to interact with each other. Make sure your program is  ACEN or CCNE. After that get ready to enjoy the convenience of class from home. This can enable you continue on with your other life commitments to work, family, friends, or other social obligations. Applications will likely be similar to other MSN programs, and if you have questions about the online components feel free to contact the admissions department at the school. Also be sure to ask them about how they will help you organize your clinical experience.

What MSN Specializations Are Available

Your options are endless. With Direct Entry programs you can choose a program where you will provide direct patient care such as a Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) or Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), or you can go the route of being a nurse leader. Depending on your path you can either provide direct or indirect patient care. If you have additional questions you can check out our Comprehensive Guide to Advanced Practice Nursing. You can specialize in the following areas. Take a look at the following list to see what kinds of areas you can specialize in.

Nurse Practitioner (NP) Programs

If you know you want to be an NP, you will need to know what population you want to work with before applying. This is because NPs are certified based on population foci, or what age group or type of patients they work with. By working as an NP you will provide direct patient care. This means assessing patients, diagnosing them through care exam and lab and imaging results, as well as treating them in the form of education, providing recommendations, and prescribing medications. During your program you will need to complete a certain number of supervised clinical hours. Clinical hours are experienced where another NP or physician will supervise and teach you while you care for patients. This will prepare you to be a safe and effective provider. The number of clinical hours you will need to complete will vary based on your population foci and university, but in general you can expect to complete between 500-600 hours. During your master’s you will be required to complete a certain number of hands on clinical hours to ensure that you master the skills necessary to be a safe and effective NP. Here are the different populations you can focus in as an NP:

  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
  • Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PCPNP)
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-PCNP)
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
  • Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (AC PNP)
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP)

Other Direct Care MSN Specialties

Understanding APRN roles can be confusing…so take a peek at our guide first. Aside from the NP role there are 3 other types of APRN roles that provide direct care to patients. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) these (along with NPs) are what make up APRNs.

  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) – CRNAs are qualified to care for the pain needs and administer anesthesia throughout the entire US.
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) – CNMs provide care for women not only during pregnancy bu also throughout their life. You will be able to care for them as they deliver their babies and when they encounter various health issues. Your skills will also include performing minor surgical procedures, prescribing medications ,and more.
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): Working as a CNS means that you will be an expert in your field as you provide care to patients in need. State regulations vary, so depending on where you work you may or may not have the ability to diagnose and prescribe medications.

Indirect Care MSN Specialities

Providing direct patient care is not the only way to make a difference as a nurse. The healthcare industry is constantly in need of caring, compassionate individuals who are trained to be leaders, educators, and administrators. With the following nursing specialties you will be able to provide indirect patient care by altering the healthcare system as a whole and thereby influencing patient outcomes. You may hear these types of nurses as being referred to as advanced practice roles. However, they do not technically fall under the APRN umbrella.

  • Nurse Educator –  As a nurse educator you will play a vital role in educating nurse in their clinical work places as well as in academic institutions, thus advancing healthcare and improving clinical outcomes.
  • Clinical Nurse Leader – Your role will be to lead healthcare teams to provide the best possible patient outcomes and improve the overall delivery of healthcare.
  • Nurse Administrator: As a nurse administrator you will have the flexibility to work at the executive or manager level. With time and experience you will have potential for career growth. You will be a key player in optimizing nursing work environments which will enable the entire healthcare team to deliver better care.

What Will I Study in My Direct Entry Program

With all direct entry programs, the first part of your curriculum will be nursing courses that are required for you to register for and pass the NCLEX. Curriculum will vary depending on the school. After you complete your pre-requisite course most direct entry programs will require courses similar to what Boston College does:

  • Pharmacology /Nutrition
  • Nursing Practice and Public Health in the Community
  • Adult Health Theory
  • Adult and Population Health Nursing Clinical
  • Advanced Pathophysiology Across the Life Span
  • Childbearing Nursing Theory
  • Child Health Nursing Theory
  • Psych-Mental Health Nursing Theory
  • Childbearing Nursing Clinical
  • Child Health Nursing Clinical
  • Psych-Mental Health Nursing Clinical
  • Advanced Pharmacology Across the Lifespan
  • Nursing Synthesis Practicum (Clinical)
  • Advanced Health Assessment Across the Lifespan
  • Conceptual Basis for Advanced Practice Nursing
  • Ethical Issues in Advanced Practice Nursing
  • Advanced Specialty Theory I Course
  • Advanced Specialty Clinical I Course
  • Role of Advanced Practice Nurses
  • Graduate Elective
  • Advanced Specialty Theory II Course
  • Advanced Specialty Clinical II Course

Clinical Requirements

Having supervised clinical experience (also known as clinical hours) is required to provide direct nursing care to patients at the advanced level. Your school and program should be involved in letting you know how may hours you need to complete, and where you can do them. Depending on the type of APRN you are (NP, CNM, CRNA or CNS) you will have a certain number of hours to complete. Even if you are getting your master’s in an indirect patient care field such as nurse education, you may be required to have a certain number of clinical hours as a part of your education and/or past experience. Check with your prospective programs before applying so you are aware of the requirements. Supervised clinical experiences are designed so that you can learn to assess, diagnose, and treat while being supported, taught, and supervised by an experienced nurse. These hours will be in clinics that focus on your specific patient population.  During these clinical experiences you will be trained to assess, diagnose, treat, and educate patients. This is an ideal time for you to put into practice the skills you have been learning in your direct entry program. Since you will be completing both RN and APRN requirements in a direct entry program you will have clinical experiences for both of these portions of your education. You may have more than one placement and your clinical teacher will be experienced in their field.

How Much Are Direct Entry Degree Programs

Education in the US is expensive. In nursing this is no different, but there is hope! State schools are less expensive than private ones, and since you will be in a public service field there are ways for you to get your debt paid for. The cost of direct entry programs are typically the same per credit as other master’s in nursing programs. Since you will likely take more credits than you would if you did a traditional MSN, you will probably pay a little more over all. Don’t forget to factor in your course materials! It is also possible to get scholarships and in the US students frequently take out loans to pay for their graduate degree. Here are examples of tuition costs at a state and private university:

  • Boston College: $1404 per credit or about $50,00/year
  • University of Texas: $1390 per credit or about $15,000 each year for state residents taking a full credit load

Since you are going into the public service field there are some programs listed below. You can apply for these programs after graduation and if you work in certain areas, like medically underserved locations, they will help pay off your debt. These are called loan forgiveness programs:

Check out our state guides for additional ways that you can get your education paid for.

How Much Do Nurses with an MSN Earn

With an MSN you are about to earn a very competitive salary. Since there are so many nursing roles you could take on after earning your MSN your salary can vary. CRNAs have the highest salary due to the risks of the type of care they provide. With your MSN, depending on your role, you can make anywhere from $150,000 to $250,000 per year. If you are an NP, CNM or CNS you will make between $75, 000 and $120,000 per year and as a nurse educator you can make between $60,00 and $120,000. You years of experience and the state you work in can also effect this. If you decide to go the business route, you can make up to $145,000 as a nurse executive.

MSN Resources

References:

Denisco, S. M., Barker, A. M., (2016). Advanced practice nursing: Essential knowledge for the profession. Burlington, MA: Jones and Barlett Learning.

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