RN to MSN Programs in Kentucky

According to a report released by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in 2013, more than 80 percent of Kentucky residents live in an area with a shortage of primary-care professionals. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), nurse practitioners in particular, are working to fill this gap, though the aging baby-boomer demographic and expansion in health care has caused future demand projections to outpace new graduates.

Between 2009 and 2013, the number of APRN-licensed nurses in Kentucky has grown dramatically from 2,903 to more than 4,280. This growth exemplifies the overall trend among Kentucky’s nurses who are more often than ever before returning to school to earn post-licensure degrees.

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In 2013 there were 2,290 students enrolled in MSN programs in Kentucky. As a sign of the importance the state is placing on the development of a skilled and educated nursing workforce, Kentucky sponsors the Nursing Incentive Scholarship Fund. Even if nurses have taken advantage of this scholarship before, they are still eligible to receive up to $3,000 per academic year by meeting the qualification requirements. During the 2012-13 school year, 19 nurses enrolled in RN to MSN bridge programs received this scholarship.

Kentucky’s nurses pursue MSN degrees for reasons that include qualifying for an APRN license, improving overall nursing skills and patient outcomes, or to earn advanced job qualifications for nonclinical roles in informatics, education, research and administration. Kentucky’s schools of nursing are responding by providing diverse RN to MSN pathways for professionals who want to improve their education and prepare for the career opportunities of tomorrow.

RN to MSN Nursing Schools in Kentucky

There are at least nine schools of nursing in Kentucky that offer MSN programs, many of which feature specialized RN to MSN tracks for diploma, ADN and BSN educated nurses. RN to MSN programs in Kentucky offer nurses a variety of options to make earning an advanced education as convenient as possible:

  • Option for online courses and degree programs
  • Flexible completion dates for full-time and part-time students
  • Clinical locations spread throughout the state and region
  • Specialized MSN degrees to prepare nurses for a variety of advanced career paths

In addition to online programs, campus locations can be found in the cities of:

  • Louisville
  • Richmond
  • Hyden
  • Grayson
  • Murray
  • Highland Heights
  • Bowling Green

In addition to general MSN degrees, specialized RN-MSN programs in Kentucky include:

  • MSN in Nursing Administration
  • MSN in Nursing Education
  • MSN-MBA Program
  • MSN to prepare nurses for the four main areas of APRN practice in Kentucky:
    • Nurse Practitioner, including specialty areas and patient population foci
    • Nurse Midwife
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist, including specialty areas and patient population foci
    • Nurse Anesthetist

Meeting Admission Requirements for Kentucky’s RN to MSN Programs

Each school of nursing has its own specific admission requirements. Common qualifications include:

  • Current RN license
  • Admission to the school of nursing’s home college or university
  • Background investigation
  • Minimum testing scores, such as on the GRE
  • Minimum GPA
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Written essay on professional nursing goals
  • Prior nursing experience
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Nursing Courses in Kentucky’s RN to MSN Programs

In most cases nurses will need to start by taking upper-level undergraduate courses to effectively get to the BSN level. Some programs are dual degree, resulting in both a BSN and MSN. For nurses with a nursing diploma or ADN this means taking three to four semesters of upper-division undergraduate courses like:

  • Pharmacology
  • Nursing for mothers and infants
  • Nursing for families
  • Nursing for children, adults, and the elderly
  • Nursing ethics and legal issues
  • Evidenced-based nursing practices

Upon reaching the BSN level nurses will be ready for graduate-level core MSN nursing courses. These will begin with classes that close the gap between the undergraduate and graduate levels, and will include subjects such as:

  • Foundations of advanced nursing practice
  • Nursing economic and information management
  • Advanced clinical assessments
  • Health care systems and policy
  • Advanced nursing research and evidence-based practices
  • Informatics and clinical decision making
  • Advanced pathophysiology

If nurses are pursing a specialized MSN degree they will take courses that focus on their area of concentration. This typically occurs during the final two semesters. Examples include:

    • MSN in Nursing Education:
      • Education leadership, theory, and curriculum development
      • Health profession pedagogy
      • Nursing knowledge translation


    • MSN for the APRN area of Nurse Practitioner – Family:
      • Advanced family practice nursing
      • Pediatrics


  • MSN for the APRN area of Nurse Practitioner – Psychiatric and Mental Health:
    • Clinical interview techniques
    • Conducting advanced psychiatric assessments
    • Psychopharmacology

Depending on the RN to MSN program, it is possible for full-time students to graduate in as little as three to four semesters;

  • Nursing diploma – 8-9 semesters (dual degree programs confer a BSN and MSN)
  • ADN – 7-8 semesters (dual degree programs confer a BSN and MSN)
  • BSN – 3-4 semesters

RN to MSN Clinicals

Kentucky’s RN to MSN programs actively work to get students placed at preferred or otherwise convenient clinical locations. This is particularly true for students who are completing their education online. Clinical locations can be found throughout the state or elsewhere in the nation.

Hospitals in Kentucky that partner with nursing schools to serve as clinical locations include:

  • Baptist Health Lexington
  • Baptist Health Louisville
  • Saint Elizabeth Edgewood
  • Norton Hospital in Louisville
  • Jewish Hospital in Louisville
  • King’s Daughters Medical Center in Ashland
  • Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital in Lexington


Qualifying for APRN Licensure in Kentucky

Many of Kentucky’s nurses pursue RN to MSN programs because having a graduate degree fulfills the education requirement for an APRN license through the Kentucky Board of Nursing.

Nurses can earn an APRN license in four main categories along with recognition for specialty and/or patient population focus:

    • Clinical Nurse Specialist
      • Child and Adolescent Psychiatric and Mental Health
      • Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health
      • Gerontology
      • Pediatric


    • Nurse Practitioner
      • Acute Care
      • Family
      • Adult
      • Pediatric


  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Anesthetist

Graduates can apply online for an APRN license with the Kentucky Board of Nursing once they have earned a master’s degree or post-master’s certificate from a school that is approved by the Board and become nationally certified in an APRN role and area of focus:

Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP):

American Association of Critical Nurses (AACN)

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)

Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC)

Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)

National Certification Corporation (NCC)


Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS):

Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC)

American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN)

National Certification Corporation (NCC)

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)


Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM):

American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB)


Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA):

National Board on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA)

Other Career Opportunities for MSN-Educated Nurses in Kentucky

Kentucky’s nurses have many other reasons to pursue an MSN besides qualifying for an APRN license. Nurses are either required or preferred to have an MSN degree for many more advanced nursing positions. The variety of specialized MSN degree programs in Kentucky is a testament to this fact. Nurses can pursue any of the following fields with an MSN:

  • Clinical management
  • Administrative management
  • Nursing school faculty teaching positions
  • Quality control research
  • Nursing informatics and statistical analysis

A recent March 2015 survey of job vacancies in Kentucky found the following examples of positions that either required or preferred nurses with an MSN:

  • Nursing Instructor at a community college in Versailles
  • Tenured faculty teaching position at a university in Highland Heights
  • NCLEX-RN Instructor
  • Regional Quality Manager with Humana in Louisville
  • Clinical Investigator with Humana in Louisville
  • Nurse Coordinator with the Nebraska Heart Institute in Louisville
  • Nurse Manager with Eastern State Hospital in Lexington
  • Director of Care Management at a hospital in Saint Joseph

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