In 2013, nearly 25% of Florida’s 14,739 nursing students were enrolled in one of the state’s Master of Science in Nursing programs according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Eighty-seven percent of the 3,451 MSN program students enrolled that year were studying to obtain an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) license through the Florida Board of Nursing. RN-MSN bridge programs represent the quickest path to advance practice licensure.
MSN qualified graduates consistently earn higher salaries than ADN or BSN-qualified RNs. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2011 RNs in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area earned an average of roughly $68,000 annually, compared to an average of $109,000 for MSN-qualified nurses. This includes those in advanced practice, as well as those in nonclinical roles such as education and administration.
According to the Florida Medical Association, the state ranks 45th in the nation in terms of resident access to primary care providers, a situation they hope to rectify through increased collaboration with MSN-qualified ARNPs.
Enrolling in an RN-MSN Bridge Program in Florida
Students in Florida may choose from a variety of program formats to suit their busy schedules. Working RNs may opt for completely online programs, however more often programs consist of a hybrid of online and campus-based coursework.
Students may choose from online, hybrid or campus-based programming at institutions in the following cities:
- Daytona Beach
- West Palm Beach
- Miami Shores
- Boca Raton
- Fort Myers
- Panama City
- Fort Lauderdale
- Coral Gables
RN-MSN Bridge Program Prerequisites
In light of nationwide faculty shortages, admission into Florida’s RN-MSN bridge programs is competitive and applicants are generally advised to have at least one year of care experience as a registered nurse before applying. In addition, prospective students may encounter some of the following admission requirements set out by their institution of choice:
- Hold an associate or bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution
- Maintain a minimum GPA on all undergraduate coursework
- Supply a copy of a current, unencumbered Florida RN license
- Submit a general admission application to the institution
- Complete an MSN-specific admission application
- Submit a resume and personal statement
- Submit three sealed recommendation forms
- Have official transcripts sent from all colleges or universities attended
RN-MSN Bridge Program Length and Structure
Programs for general RN-MSN students typically require between 35 and 55 credits over 2 to 3 years depending on a student’s full or part-time status and whether they plan to work in advanced clinical care or administrative settings. For instance, a general RN-MSN student will complete 37 credits over 2 years while a student pursuing ARNP licensure as a nurse practitioner will complete 52 credits over 3 years.
The total number of required credits also depends on an RN’s prior level of education. RNs with diplomas or ADNs will be required to complete around 15 credits of undergraduate ‘bridge’ classes in addition to the credits above prior to beginning graduate-level classes.
These general RN-MSN bridge programs expand on the patient care and organizational skills RNs already have in addition to building expertise in human resource management, information systems and clinical leadership.
Generalist students in one these programs will typically take courses in the following areas:
- MSN Core curriculum including courses in Health Assessment, Pathophysiology, Organizational and Professional Nursing Practice and Evidence-Based Practice
- Specialty curriculum pertaining to their chosen area of focus (education, clinical leadership, informatics, etc.)
- A Master’s thesis course involving research synthesis and a final paper. In some cases this requirement is replaced by a final clinical practicum course
Students in these general RN-MSN programs will also need to complete around 250 administrative or education experience hours prior to graduation, while those who choose to pursue an ARNP license on top of general MSN coursework will need to complete up to 720.
These future Advanced Practice Nurses will do an advanced care rotation at a local hospital or clinic, while general students will shadow administrators and other leaders in the field.
Specialized ARNP Programs
RNs often opt for specialized RN-MSN programs that prepare them for ARNP licensure. Entrants to these programs choose an advanced practice role and a specific patient population focus in their initial application. Students then complete the core RN-MSN curriculum above in addition to classes in their chosen role and focus.
Specialized programs are available in Florida for the following ARNP roles and patient population foci:
- Nurse Practitioner in the following patient population foci: adult/gerontology acute or primary care, pediatrics, psychiatry, neonatology, family practice or women’s health
- Nurse Midwife
- Nurse Anesthetist
After selecting a program suited to a specific role and focus, students will take courses specific to these in addition to the MSN core, such as:
- Health Management of Adults and Older Adults
- Nurse Anesthesia Role Development
- Primary Care of Children and Adolescents
- Advanced Diagnostics and Procedures
Entering the Advanced Registered Nursing Field in Florida
After completing an RN-MSN bridge program, future ARNPs must first obtain certification from a national credentialing body specific to their respective role and patient focus. Each body maintains its own exams and application process, and students are expected to apply and schedule an exam before pursuing ARNP licensure at the state level.
Credentialing Bodies Approved by the Florida Board of Nursing
Certified Nurse Practitioners (CNPs) may obtain certification through the following bodies respective to their specific patient population focus:
- ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center) for nurse practitioners in acute care, adult, family, gerontological, pediatric and adult or family/pediatric psychiatric mental health
- AANP (American Academy of Nurse Practitioners) for adult/gerontological primary care
- NCC (National Certification Corporation) for women’s health and neonatal
- PNCB (Pediatric Nurse Certification Board) for acute and primary pediatric
Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) must be certified through the AMCB (American Midwifery Certification Board).
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) must be certified through the NBCRNA (National Board of Certification & Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists).
After securing the appropriate certification, RN-MSN graduates must apply for an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner license with the Florida Board of Nursing. To do so, graduates must:
- Submit the ARNP application and pay a $148 fee
- Have their school send an official transcript to the Board
- Have the appropriate national credentialing body send proof of certification to the Board
- Complete a Financial Responsibility form in which they agree to maintain malpractice insurance
- Complete two sets of fingerprint cards
- Ensure completion of a 2 hour prevention of medical errors course (generally completed as part of a degree program, and required by the Board for licensure)
- Students may complete a Dispensing Practitioner Registration form and submit a $100 fee if they wish to sell medications to patients in their office
Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Careers in Florida
As the Tampa Tribune reported in 2013, primary care providers are in increasingly short supply across the state. In fact, 16 of the state’s counties have fewer than seven active physicians per 10,000 residents, compared to a U.S. average of 22 per 10,000. With the state’s population aging and thus requiring increasingly complex care, ARNPs have been called on by the Florida Medical Association to fill this gap.
Below are just a few of the career opportunities into which ARNPs might transition (as of March 2015):
- Cardiovascular Nurse Practitioner at Florida Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale
- Pediatric Internal Medicine ARNP at Community MedicaL Center in DeLand
- Neurosurgery Nurse Practitioner at Baptist Health Medical Group in Kendall
Other Specialized Healthcare Roles for General MSN Program Graduates in Florida
In addition to advanced practice, graduates of general RN-MSN programs go on to fill equally crucial roles in healthcare administration and leadership. With their newfound clinical systems and human resource management skills, many RNs return to their facilities of employment and transition into roles as directors of nursing, clinical information specialists or quality improvement leaders. These leaders use evidence-based practice to shape comprehensive client care and create a thriving work environment for their employees.
Other general RN-MSN students focus their studies in education and join the ranks of faculty and administration at the state’s nursing schools. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, one of the primary causes of nursing shortages across the country is a lack of faculty to train entry-level RNs. MSN graduates who choose to pursue education not only train these new patient care providers, in doing so they help meet the healthcare needs of residents across the state.
Some positions into which RN-MSN graduates might transition include (March 2015):
- Clinical Education Specialist at Broward Health in Fort Lauderdale
- Clinical Documentation Specialist at Florida Hospital in Altamonte Springs
- Director of Medical/Surgical Services at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa