RN to MSN Programs in Hawaii

Hawaii’s large aging population, as well as the state’s relatively low number of licensed doctors and other primary health care providers, has created a surge in demand for nurses with at least an MSN, particularly those in advanced practice. Nurses in Hawaii know that having more MSN-educated nurses on the workforce improves the quality of patient care and patient outcomes. Employers know this too, and that is why nurses with an MSN generally have more career options.

Becoming eligible to work as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) is often cited as the primary reason why Hawaii’s nurses return to school for specialized RN to MSN programs.

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According to the most recent statistics released by the state’s Professional and Vocational Licensing Division, as of February 2015 there are 1,264 APRNs in Hawaii working in the following locations:

  • 716 in Oahu
  • 331 working on the mainland
  • 100 working on the Big Island
  • 59 in Maui
  • 44 in Kauai

By area of practice, more than half of all APRNs work as nurse practitioners. A little less than half of the remainder work as clinical nurse specialists, followed by approximately 150 nurse anesthetists and around 60 nurse midwives.

In a total nursing workforce of 23,680, just 5.3 percent of Hawaii’s nurses hold at least an MSN. Two years prior in 2013 that percentage was 5.2 percent. With an average annual growth rate of only one-twentieth of a percentage point, the current and projected demand for nurses with at least an MSN will far outpace the supply.

The good news is that Hawaii offers a variety of nursing programs that allow nurses who are currently licensed to earn an MSN. In 2012 8.6 percent of nursing school graduates earned an MSN degree while nearly half of all graduates earned a BSN. RNs in Hawaii with nursing diplomas, ADNs, or BSNs can find specialized RN to MSN programs online to fit their career aspirations, as well as their busy schedules.

RN to MSN Programs in Hawaii

Schools of nursing in Hawaii offer two options for registered nurses who want to earn an MSN:

  • MSN pathways for nurses who do not have a BSN – approximately 5-6 full-time semesters to complete; can also result in a BSN
  • MSN pathways for nurses who already have a BSN – approximately 4 full-time semesters to complete

Portions or all of these programs are offered online and in a time frame – full-time or part-time – that allows nurses to keep working while they complete their MSN education.

Upon graduating from an MSN program nurses will have several options:

  • Work as an MSN nurse
  • Pursue an area of Advanced Practice nursing (APRN) – nursing schools will offer courses for students who would like to pursue specific APRN areas as part of their MSN program
  • Pursue a faculty position at a nursing school – this route will also mean taking graduate courses related to teaching as part of the student’s MSN
  • Apply for enrollment in PhD or other advanced nursing programs

Admission Requirements for Hawaii’s RN to MSN Programs

Each school of nursing has its own nursing requirements. Typical entrance requirements can include any of the following:

  • Application for general admission to the college or university
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Written essay regarding a prospective student’s reasons for pursuing an RN to MSN program
  • Complete résumé
  • Previous academic transcripts
  • Minimum general and nursing course GPA requirements
  • Proof of current Hawaii RN license
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Hawaii RN to MSN Curricula

The RN to MSN curriculum will depend on the incoming nurse’s prior education:

Diploma, ADN, and Other Non-BSN Students:

Nurses who do not already have a BSN will need to start by taking upper-division courses that will catch them up to this level. Programs that offer this type of track for diploma or ADN nurses to earn an MSN can first result in a BSN.

Courses in this track can take anywhere from one to three semesters to complete, and include subjects like:

  • Community health and nursing
  • Nursing research
  • Statistics and evidence-based practices
  • Nursing for different population types: infant, child, adult, elderly, and family
  • Pharmacology

Nurses with a BSN:

Nurses who already have a BSN or equivalent education will typically start their MSN program by filling in any educational gaps or program-specific undergraduate classes with a semester of bridge courses. These can include:

  • Advanced nursing practices
  • Pathophysiology and pharmacology
  • Nursing practicum
  • Laws and ethics as they relate to nursing
  • Nursing leadership and management

Having completed their MSN bridge courses students will be able to start on their MSN core nursing program with graduate-level courses. These total around 60 credits and can usually be completed in as soon as four semesters:

  • Advanced nursing theory and practice for the primary care of:
    • Infants and mothers
    • Children
    • Adults
    • Elderly

  • Advanced pathophysiology
  • Epidemiology
  • Advanced nursing research
  • Nursing education
  • Specific APRN coursework in the areas of:
    • Nurse practitioner
    • Nurse anesthetist
    • Nurse midwife
    • Clinical nurse specialist

RN to MSN Clinicals

An important part of the RN to MSN curriculum is the clinical component. Already a familiar setting for Hawaii’s nurses, clinicals can be completed at any health care facility that has an agreement with a student’s school of nursing. Students who are completing their RN to MSN program online will be glad to find that clinicals can take place at locations across Hawaii and even the country – not just in the immediate vicinity of a nursing school.

Clinicals can be in facilities like:

  • Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu
  • Castle Medical Center in Kailua
  • Hale Ho’ola Hamakua in Honokaa
  • Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe
  • Hilo Medical Center
  • Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women
  • Kona Community Hospital in Kealakekua

RN to MSN Programs for APRN Candidates

Holding at least an MSN is a requirement for nurses who want to pursue APRN recognition. The Hawaii Board of Nursing recognizes four broad areas of Advanced Practice RNs:

  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Nurses Anesthetists
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists
  • Nurse Midwives

When completing one of Hawaii’s RN to MSN programs, nurses can choose to take courses that will prepare them for APRN-approval in one of these four main areas or additional sub-areas, such as a Family Nurse Practitioner.

Nurses also need to complete these general APRN course requirements, and can do so as part of their MSN program:

  • Advanced pharmacology
  • Advanced assessments
  • Selecting, diagnosing, and prescribing for therapeutic treatments

In addition to having the appropriate degree and coursework, APRN candidates also need to have a national certification in their area of ARPN focus. For example, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers a national certification for Family Nurse Practitioner.

The Hawaii Board of Nursing accepts national certifications from the following organizations:

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
  • National Certification Corporation (NCC)
  • Pediatric Nurse Certification Board (PNCB)
  • Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC)
  • American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB)
  • National Board of Certification and Re-certification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA)

Once all of these requirements have been met nurses can apply for APRN recognition by filling out an application and submitting this to the Hawaii Board of Nurses.

RN to MSN Degrees for Hawaii’s Other Nursing Professionals

While becoming an APRN is one of the primary reasons nurses pursue an MSN, it is not the only one. Having an MSN can also be a prerequisite for positions like:

  • Nursing school faculty teachers
  • Nursing administrative leaders
  • Nursing clinical directors

Each MSN program can offer a different kind of MSN specialization for nurses who want to pursue a variety of employment goals. Additionally there are generalist MSN programs that offer nurses an opportunity to develop a multifaceted foundation and add an advanced educational credential to their qualifications.

Some examples of February 2015 job vacancies in Hawaii include:

  • APRN with Kaiser Permanente in Honolulu
  • NCLEX-RN Instructor with Kaplan in Maui County
  • Nurse Practitioner with Hawaii Pacific Health in Honolulu
  • Emergency Room Nurse Manager in Honolulu
  • Quality Assurance RN in Hilo
  • Emergency Room Nurse in Hilo
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner with United Health Hire
  • Director of Nursing Education in Honolulu
  • Mental Health APRN with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Wailuku
  • House Supervisor Nurse with Cross Country TravCorps in Honolulu
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner with the West Maui Counseling Center in Lahaina
  • Associate Professor of Nursing in Honolulu

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