Online nursing programs are a brilliant way to advance your nursing career in flexible way. There is plenty of room for career advancement in the nursing industry, and at every level, a great deal of training and experience is required to ensure that you are consistently providing a high level of care to your patients. If you are a practicing RN, then MSN NP programs can give you the chance to train in a more specialized area of nursing, while continuing to work in your current role. Additionally, if you are just at the start of your educational journey to becoming a nurse practitioner, then exploring your training options and possible career outcomes can help you to plan ahead for the future.
What courses are there?
The MSN NP programs are online BSN-MSN/NP degrees, and are designed to be studied by practicing RNs who want to learn alongside their current shifts. They can train you to have the clinical expertise to prevent, treat, assess, and manage diseases in a specific, advanced area of nursing. Each program can be completed in 24-30 months, depending on which of the following pathways you choose to take:
- Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner degree: 28 months to complete
- Family nurse practitioner degree: 30 months to complete
- Pediatric nurse practitioner degree: 28 months to complete
- Adult-gerontology, primary care, nurse practitioner degree: 24 months to complete
Within each of the MSN NP programs there are numerous courses such as theoretical perspectives for advanced practice and moral and ethical decision-making, and these can be completed one at a time for ultimate flexibility. Each course takes 7 weeks to complete, with a 1-week break before beginning the next course. There are various entry requirements that you will need to meet in order to be eligible for these programs, such as a BSN degree, unencumbered nursing license, and a 3.0 GPA.
What are the career outcomes?
If you are already an RN, then you will be aware of the amount of education and training that is required to work as a nurse, as well as the ability to constantly be learning and adapting. You may currently be working in general nursing, and have some idea of the areas in which you are strongest and most passionate about. MSN NP programs can help develop your skills and knowledge in one of these areas, training you to work as an NP in your specialism, such as the following:
MSN NP programs prepare you to work as a nurse practitioner, which is an advanced practice nursing role. NPs specialize in a certain area of nursing, and are mid-level practitioners. One of the primary functions of an NP is to educate patients on their health, in order to promote their wellness. As an NP, you may also perform many of the clinical and diagnostic functions of a doctor, without being trained as one, which makes NPs nonphysician clinicians, and in some states, you can work independently and without the supervision of a physician. Depending on the pathway you choose, the MSN NP programs can prepare you to work in one of the following roles:
Family nurse practitioner
FNPs deal with patients across all genders, ages, diseases, and body systems, and understand the importance of family-centered healthcare. As an FNP you will prioritize preventative care, but will also be able to treat serious illness, and can work in a variety of settings such as internal medicine clinics, private practices, and hospitals, as well as areas that have historically long waiting lists for physicians. The responsibilities of an FNP can include:
- Assessing patients
- Diagnosing patients
- Educating patients
- Ordering and interpreting lab tests
- Managing treatment plans
- Prescribing medication
Pediatric nurse practitioner
PNPs treat patients from newborns to young adults. As a PNP you will focus on primary care as well as chronic and acute illnesses. There are numerous settings that PNPs can work in, such as private practices or alongside pediatricians. The responsibilities of a PNP can include:
- Prescribing medication
- Maintaining patient health
- Performing physical assessments
- Performing developmental check-ups
- Interpreting lab and diagnostic results
- Treating various illness and injuries
- Providing advice and emotional support to patients and their families
- Liaising between patients, families, and doctors
Adult-gerontology, primary care, nurse practitioner
Gerontology is the study of aging, and AGNPs treat patients from around the age of 21 and upwards. When thinking about becoming an NP in this area, there are two type of practitioners; those who focus on primary care and those who focus on acute care. The MSN NP programs train you to work in the former, which means you will be dealing with patients who are not usually ill. In this area of AGNP, the responsibilities may include:
- Assessing caregiver competence
- Educating patients and caregivers
- Promoting and encouraging healthy lifestyles
- Managing transitions between care settings
Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
PMHNPs provide a wide range of mental health services to individuals, groups, and communities, and can generalize, or specialize in areas such as geriatrics or forensics. The settings that PMHNPs work in can include schools, trauma centers, prisons, or substance abuse programs. The responsibilities of a PMHNPs may include:
- Prescribing medications
- Managing medications
- Assessing patients
- Diagnosing patients
- Conducting therapy
- Providing emergency psychiatric services
- Managing patient care
- Educating families and staff
These are the NP roles that MSN NP programs can train you to work in. They are advanced nursing roles, and therefore require a higher level of qualification. You could also continue to train and complete a DNP, which will make you eligible to apply for even higher-level nursing roles.
Who are they for?
The MSN NP programs are aimed at practicing RNs who already hold a BSN and know which area of nursing they would like to specialize in. Furthermore, the online nature of the programs makes them a good choice for those who want more control over their learning experience, and the flexibility to allow them to continue working while they study. As an RN you will be aware of the many characteristics and personal skills that help make a great nurse, and you will probably already possess many of them. The MSN NP programs will help you develop these skills further, and teach you how to apply them to any new scenarios that you may find yourself in when you are working as an NP. For example:
Nursing is a challenging job, both emotionally and physically, and therefore it is important to have stamina in these areas. You will be on your feet for long hours, moving and lifting equipment and patients. Furthermore, you will need to have emotional stamina in order to create healthy working boundaries and help prevent issues such as compassion fatigue.
Compassion and empathy
Compassion and empathy are two very important traits to have as a nurse. Compassion is feeling sympathy combined with the desire to fix whatever is causing the patient pain or distress. Empathy is the ability to put yourself fin the shoes of your patients, to try and better understand their situation, thoughts, and feelings. Both can help you provide a more personal service, and help make your patients feel more relaxed and comfortable in what may very well be a very stressful time.
Communication and teamwork
As an NP, a large part of your work focuses on education, and therefore you need to have excellent communication skills in order to convey information. Communication does not just involve speaking, it also means listening and observing. You will be working with and treating many different people, who may not always have the same level of medical knowledge as you, and therefore you need to know how and when to adapt your communication approaches to suit the situation. Teamwork is also an important part of nursing, and goes alongside communication. You need to be able to collaborate with others, as NPs are often part of a larger multidisciplinary team, and everyone should have the patient’s best interests at heart.
This is the ability to objectively look at a situation and make a judgement on it. In nursing, you will have to use plenty of decision-making skills constantly, and often in pressurized situations, and therefore critical thinking, problem solving, and judgement skills can help you efficiently come to the best conclusion for your patients.
There are so many skills that make a great nurse, and these can be developed in many different ways. You will likely already have them, and just need to know how to strengthen them or apply them to your work.
Why study online MSN NP programs?
The MSN NP programs use blended learning, which is a combination of teaching and learning techniques. A large part of the studying is done from home, while practical classes, placements, and internships giving you the chance to put your skills into practice in a workplace, make important connections, and network in the industry. When studying MSN NP programs, you will gain the technical knowledge required to succeed in these roles, as well as the personal skills and experiences that help to make a great nurse. Online learning itself has many other benefits, from added flexibility to helping save money:
There are plenty of expenses that students have to cover, such as travel, accommodation, tuition fees, and living costs. Online learning can help reduce or remove some of these costs, making online studying options more cost-effective. For example, when you are learning at home you can also save time and money on commuting, as you won’t have to travel to classes every day. Furthermore, the tuitions fees for online courses are often cheaper, you may be eligible for financial support from your university, and the ability to continue working means that you can keep earning money while you learn.
When most of your learning is done from home, your physical location is less of a barrier. You also have more control over your learning environment, allowing you to personalize your learning experience, and create a space to work in that works for you. This is another benefit of blended learning, as it allows you to fulfill your learning requirements, therefore making the courses more adaptable. Furthermore, if your local university doesn’t offer the courses that you want or need, then online MSN NP programs can give you an alternative, where you don’t have to attend in person as frequently.
Soft skills are non-technical, transferable skills that can be used in any workplace, and include traits such as communication, conflict resolution, problem solving, creativity, and self-motivation. Employers look out for these on resumés, as they show that you are a capable employee who is able to work as part of a team or use your initiative when the situation calls for it. Many of these skills are essential for nursing, and the MSN NP programs can help you develop them. For example, as a nurse you will need to be organized, with great time management, prioritization, and scheduling skills. This is because you will usually have multiple patients at one time, and each need to receive the same high level of care and support. When studying online, you will also need to use these organizational skills in order to complete your course to the best of your abilities, while still working and keeping up with you other commitments.
There is a varied range of career outcomes that follow MSN NP programs, and they are all rewarding. You will be able to work in your chosen area of nursing, delving deeper into your specialism and helping a large number of individuals, groups, or communities. The programs will teach you valuable skills that will help you grow personally and professionally, while remaining a flexible learning style. If you are an RN and are ready to take the next steps in your career, then these programs could help you achieve this. Additionally, if you are not yet sure of the direction you would like to move in, planning ahead and considering your options when it comes to training in the future is a great idea.