5 Things to Consider in Your RN-MSN Program Search

Choosing a nurse practitioner program can be a confusing process, especially without a traditional BSN degree.  While there are plenty of programs for students looking to become NPs in a nontraditional manner, they may be difficult to find.  If you do find a school with an RN-MSN track, how do you know if it’s the right program for you?

These criteria will help you evaluate your RN-MSN programs of interest to choose the best NP program for your needs.

  1. Does this program offer a nurse practitioner focus?  Many RN-MSN programs out there offer a non-clinical education.  They focus on training nurse educators or clinical nurse leaders.  While this is perfect if you are looking to teach or work in a non-clinical setting, if you want a career as a nurse practitioner, these programs are not for you.  Make sure the programs to which you are applying offer actual nurse practitioner tracks.  Having an MSN degree doesn’t necessarily make you an NP.
  2. Have you completed the necessary prerequisite requirements?  Be careful.  Some RN-MSN programs, especially those educating prospective NPs, require students to have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field in addition to their RN degree.  Other programs require standardized testing, like the GRE, before applying.  Like most traditional NP programs, RN-MSN programs also require that students have completed specific courses before applying.  Make sure you look into your school’s prerequisite requirements so you don’t jeopardize your acceptance.
  3. Pass Rate.  Once you finish your RN-MSN program, you will need to pass the national nurse practitioner certification exam in order to practice (in most states). Asking your prospective program what percentage of their graduates pass this exam on the first attempt is a good indicator of the school’s quality of education (or, at least how well they prepare students for the exam).  A pass rate in the mid to high 90 percent rage is ideal.  Some schools refuse to share their pass rates which should be a warning sign to you as a student.
  4. Is the program online or on campus?  If it is online, can you complete the program in your home state? Online programs are becoming quite popular.  They allow NP students flexibility in their education.  Some students choose to work during their nurse practitioner programs while others simply enjoy the more laid back educational approach. However, some online RN-MSN programs only accommodate students from certain states.  Make sure your program of interest accepts students from your state and that your clinical hours can be completed there as well.
  5. Preceptorships. The clinical hours you complete in your RN-MSN program will be the most important part of your education.  Your clinical experience teaches you the skills you need to actually work as a nurse practitioner.  It is during these experiences that you become comfortable diagnosing patients, prescribing medications and performing procedures.  Finding a quality clinical placement is a must for your NP education.  Some schools offer assistance in locating clinical preceptorships while others do not.  Finding your own clinical placement can be quite stressful.  While attending an RN-MSN program that helps students find clinical preceptorships isn’t a must it will help ease the stress of your NP education.

Are you looking for an RN-MSN program?  What factors are you considering in choosing your school?


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