RN to MSN Programs in Iowa

The Iowa Board of Nursing has released data showing that the number of students enrolling in Iowa’s MSN programs has been steadily increasing. In the 2006-07 academic year there were just 602 students enrolled in such programs. By the 2011-12 academic year, this number had more than doubled to 1,633 students. Iowa’s RN to MSN programs represent a significant and important source of higher education and advanced career preparation for nurses who already hold an RN license.

In 2002 there were just 1,523 nurses throughout the state whose highest degree was an MSN. Ten years later that number had nearly doubled to 2,886. The 2011-12 school year saw the highest number of new MSN admissions in Iowa’s history, at 927 new students. This was up more than 300 percent from a decade earlier.

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Specialized RN to MSN bridge programs are vital to resolving the challenges that face the state’s healthcare system. These programs help address primary care shortages by providing a convenient path to advanced practice licensure. RN-MSN programs in education and administration also help address acute shortages in the areas of nursing education and leadership, which become even more important as thousands more entry-level nurses enter the workforce in the coming years.

RN to MSN Programs in Iowa

There are eight colleges and universities in Iowa that offer MSN degrees, with most of these providing RN to MSN tracks for nurses with an RN license. Many of these programs also have an online completion option that allows nurses to continue working while preparing for more advanced roles.

The expected duration of these programs based on a nurse’s existing level of education:

  • Diploma – 8-9 semesters and can also result in a BSN as well as an MSN (dual degree option)
  • ADN – 7-8 semesters and can also result in a BSN as well as an MSN (dual degree option)
  • BSN – 3-4 semesters

Although general MSN degrees area available, students also have the option to pursue specialized programs specific to different career paths in advanced practice and nonclinical roles:

  • MSN in Education
  • MSN in Leadership
  • MSN in Community and Public Health
  • MSN in Clinical Nurse Leadership
  • MSN in Administration
  • MSN in Informatics
  • MSN in Health Advocacy

Having a master’s degree is also a requirement for nurses who want to earn Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) status from the Iowa Board of Nursing. Specialized ARNP programs are available in these areas:

  • Nurse Midwife
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Nurse Practitioner (programs are further specialized by patient population focus)

In addition to online programs, prospective students can find RN-MSN programs in the cities of:

  • Waterloo
  • Sioux City
  • Dubuque
  • Des Moines
  • Cedar Rapids
  • Iowa City

RN to MSN Admission Requirements in Iowa

Each school of nursing has its own admission requirements. Candidates can expect to be required to meet any of the following:

  • Current Iowa RN license
  • An ADN, BSN or a bachelor’s degree in a related field
  • Minimum GPA
  • Nursing prerequisites completed
  • Minimum amount of prior nursing experience
  • Complete résumé or CV
  • Essay or personal statement
  • Test requirements, such as the GRE
  • Professional and personal references
  • Liability insurance
  • CPR certification and vaccination record
  • Criminal background check
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RN to MSN Program Structure

The initial RN to MSN courses depend on what level of education a nurse has already achieved. Nurses with only diplomas or ADNs will need to take upper-division undergraduate courses before starting in on graduate coursework.

Nurses who are near the equivalent level of a BSN will typically begin their program with upper-level undergraduate coursework. These courses will segue into graduate classes, and many will also first result in a bachelor’s degree.

Credit requirements typically break down as follows:

  • 20 credits of upper-division undergraduate transitional courses
  • 25 semester credits in core graduate nursing courses
  • 15 semester credits in specialized graduate nursing courses

Clinicals can take place at locations throughout Iowa, or elsewhere in the country. Because many nurses are enrolled in RN to MSN programs online and are working, schools of nursing establish clinical agreements with health care facilities in a variety of towns and cities. Examples of clinical locations in Iowa include:

  • Genesis Medical Center in Davenport
  • Saint Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids
  • Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines
  • Alegent Creighton Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs
  • Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines
  • Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City
  • Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames

Becoming an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) in Iowa

The Iowa Board of Nursing recognizes 39 ARNP areas for licensure based on role, patient population focus and specialty. These are listed in full on the ARNP Licensure Application that candidates will fill out once they have met the eligibility requirements. ARNP categories include:

  • Nurse Midwife
  • Over a dozen categories of Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Over a dozen categories of Nurse Practitioner

Many RN to MSN degree programs in Iowa offer specialized tracks for nurses who want to pursue ARNP licensure in one of these categories. Having any MSN degree will meet the ARNP degree requirement.

The final requirement to ARNP licensure is national certification. After obtaining an MSN, nurses will need to become nationally certified in their ARNP area of specialization by one of the following approved agencies:

MSN Degrees and Advanced Career Opportunities in Iowa

Nurses enroll in Iowa’s RN to MSN programs for a variety of reasons:

  • Having an MSN has been linked to improved patient outcomes
  • Having an MSN fulfills the education requirement for nurses to earn an ARNP license
  • Having an MSN fulfills the minimum qualification requirements or preferences for advanced employment opportunities

A recent survey of job vacancy postings across Iowa revealed the following positions that either required or preferred nurses with an MSN. Recorded in March of 2015, these are just some examples of MSN employment possibilities in Iowa:

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist at Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque
  • NCLEX-RN Instructor in Orange City
  • Clinical Educator with Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare in Waterloo
  • Director of Women’s and Family Services with Ottuma Regional Health Care
  • Outpatient Diabetes Nurse Educator in Cedar Rapids
  • Health Simulation Director at a community college in Mason City
  • Clinical Research Association in Iowa City
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Director of Behavioral Nursing Services in Des Moines

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