RN to MSN Programs in Louisiana

According to a report released by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, in 2013 more than 78 percent of all Louisiana residents were living in an area with a shortage of primary-care medical professionals. Nurses educated at the graduate level and licensed in advanced practice are an important part of the solution, providing non-physician primary care to residents of rural Louisiana. That is why Louisiana’s nursing community along with its Board of Nursing have been working to make RN to MSN bridge programs more accessible to the state’s nurses.

Louisiana has known that it would face a nursing shortage since 1991. The state’s Nursing Supply and Demand Commission (NSDC) was created that year, and has since been working to improve access to educational options like RN to MSN programs that increase a nurse’s upwards mobility. In light of these efforts, in 2013 there were 1,506 students enrolled in MSN programs across the state. The 2013 school year saw yet higher numbers of nurses enrolling in non-APRN MSN programs – 15 percent higher than the previous year. That same year nurses pursuing graduate programs for APRN licensure rose by 11 percent over the previous year.

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Current trends also indicate that efforts made by the NSDC are having an effect. In 2009 there were less than 4,000 nurses in Louisiana whose highest degree was an MSN. By 2013 that number had risen to 5,314. In fact, when nurses in Louisiana who were pursuing post-licensure degrees were polled, 46 percent of respondents said they were enrolled in an RN-MSN program, 10 percentage points above the number who reported they were working towards a BSN.

Whether it is to better their knowledge, improve patient care and access, or to pursue advanced career options, Louisiana’s nurses are more and more often taking advantage of specialized RN to MSN programs in general practice, advanced practice, informatics, clinical leadership, administration and education.

RN to MSN Programs in Louisiana

Nurses will find Louisiana’s RN to MSN programs to be accommodating, offering options for nurses in a variety of situations:

  • Online full-time and part-time programs that are designed to fit with a nurses work schedule
  • RN to MSN programs for nurses with a nursing certificate, ADN, BSN, or other degrees
  • Programs that admit nursing diploma and ADN students that also result in a BSN along the way to an MSN
  • Clinical segments that can be completed at locations throughout Louisiana as well as the nation to accommodate online students
  • Completion times that vary between three and eight semesters, depending on a nurse’s level of prior education

Louisiana is home to 12 graduate schools of nursing, many of which offer RN to MSN tracks for nurses. In addition to online options, campus locations are found in the cities of:

  • Grambling
  • Thibodaux
  • Lake Charles
  • Hammond
  • Lafayette
  • New Orleans
  • Shreveport
  • Baton Rouge

In addition to general MSN tracks, RN to MSN programs are available that offer specialized tracks for nurses who are looking to gain skills in a particular area of focus. Some examples include:

  • MSN – Nurse Educator
  • MSN – Nursing Administrator
  • MSN – Nurse Executive
  • MSN – Nurse Leadership
  • MSN in preparation for Louisiana’s four main categories of APRN licensure:
    • Nurse Practitioner (plus patient population focus and area of specialty)
    • Nurse Midwife
    • Nurse Anesthetist
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist (plus patient population focus and area of specialty)

Admission Requirements for Louisiana’s RN to MSN Programs

While each RN to MSN program has its own specific admission qualifications, many programs hold certain requirements in common:

  • Current RN license
  • Minimum grade point average
  • Minimum test scores, such as on the GRE or MAT
  • Admission to the nursing program’s home college or university
  • Completing of outstanding nursing prerequisites
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Criminal background check
  • Health and/or liability insurance
  • Minimum degree requirements such as an ADN or BSN
  • Prior nursing experience

RN to MSN Curriculum in Louisiana

The structure of RN to MSN programs depends on the prior level of education a nurse has attained. Some programs admit students who have a nursing diploma or ADN degree, while others only admit students who hold a BSN or similar bachelor’s degree.

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Nursing Diploma and ADN Nurses

Nurses who begin their RN to MSN program with either a diploma or ADN degree can expect to start by completing upper-division undergraduate courses. These can take between two and four semesters, and include classes like:

  • Nursing professional development
  • Nursing ethics
  • Transcultural nursing
  • Nursing research
  • Health assessment
  • Nursing and public health

BSN and other Bachelor’s Degree Nursing Students

Nurses who already have the equivalent of a BSN will start their RN to MSN program by taking bridge courses that will help them to transition from undergraduate nursing to graduate nursing. From this point graduation can be achieved within as little as three to four semesters:

  • Transitions in professional nursing theory
  • Advanced nursing research and statistical analysis
  • Healthcare systems management
  • Health care ethics and advanced nursing
  • Nursing informatics and evidence-based practices
  • Epidemiology
  • Graduate nursing practicum

In addition to those studying for a general MSN, many nurses completing an RN to MSN program are doing so to acquire specialized knowledge for a particular career pathway. As such, during the latter half of their program nurses will take specialized courses in a particular area of focus, such as:

  • Nursing education for teachers
  • Forensic nursing
  • Nursing leadership in business or administration
  • Nursing in one of the four main categories of APRN licensure, including sub-categories of Clinical Nurse Specialist and Nurse Practitioner

Louisiana Nursing Clinicals

Nurses enrolled in an RN to MSN program will already be familiar with the clinical environment. During the clinical portion of the program they will have the chance to apply their new master’s-level knowledge in real-life situations.

Clinicals can be located at any health care facility that has an agreement with a nursing school. Some Louisiana examples can include places like:

  • Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans
  • Willis-Knighton Medical Center in Shreveport
  • Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge
  • Alexandria Veterans Affairs Health Care System in Pineville
  • American Legion Hospital in Crowley
  • Baton Rouge General Medical Center
  • Brentwood Hospital in Shreveport
  • Central Louisiana State Hospital in Pineville

RN to MSN Degree Programs as an APRN Pathway

Many of Louisiana’s nurses enroll in an RN to MSN program to qualify for licensure as an APRN nurse. The Louisiana State Board of Nursing licenses nurses in four main APRN categories:

  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Specialist

To qualify for licensure as an APRN, nurses must fill out an application after meeting these two requirements:

  • Earn at least a master’s degree with a concentration in an APRN licensure category or sub-category from a program approved by the Louisiana State Board of Nursing
  • Earn a national certification from an approved organization in that particular APRN licensure category or sub-category

The Louisiana State Board of Nursing approves the following APRN national certification organizations:

Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) –

Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) –

Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) –

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) –

Preparing for Advanced Careers with an MSN in Louisiana

Nurses choose to pursue an MSN degree for many other reasons besides qualifying for an APRN license. Knowing that patient care is improved as nurses have a higher education can be one motivating factor for RNs to study for a generalist MSN. Other specific career tracks are associated with specialized MSN degrees:

  • An MSN – Nurse Educator degree can lead to teaching positions at nursing schools throughout Louisiana
  • An MSN – Nurse Administrator degree prepares nurses for careers in management and administrative positions
  • An MSN – Nurse Executive degree prepares nurses for careers in business, management, and other leadership positions

A recent survey completed in March of 2015 found the following job vacancies as examples of employment opportunities for nurses who posses an MSN degree:

  • Director of Quality Management with Anthem, Inc in Baton Rouge
  • Director of Nursing with Christus Health in Lake Charles
  • Nurse Manager with BioScript in Baton Rouge
  • Chief Nursing Officer with Chapel Hill Solutions in New Orleans
  • Division Educator at the East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie
  • Clinical Educator at the Lafayette General Medical Center
  • Hospice Director with North Oaks Health System in Hammond

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