According to a 2012 article in the New Jersey Monthly, by 2020 the state will have a shortage of between 2,800 and 3,000 primary care providers. Among the creative solutions proposed is an expansion of the role of nurse practitioners, especially in the area of family medicine. These developments have spurred the New Jersey Board of Nursing, the state’s nursing employers, educators and other stakeholders to encourage RNs to pursue MSN bridge programs as a path to advanced practice licensure.
As of 2013, roughly 2,600 nursing students in the state were pursuing Master of Science in Nursing programs in New Jersey. Of these, 1,684 were studying to become Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs). While advanced practice clinicians fill crucial roles in advanced patient care, specialized RN-MSN programs are also in place to help RNs transition into high-level non-clinical roles in administration, informatics and education.
In all cases, MSN graduates earn higher annual salaries than their ADN or BSN qualified counterparts. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2011 that nurse administrators earned an average of $35,530 more than staff RNs working in the Newark area.
Enrolling in an RN-MSN Bridge Program in New Jersey
New Jersey is home to specialized RN-MSN programs that are available to generalists, as well as those aspiring to become advanced practice clinicians, educators, informaticists or administrators.
Working RNs may choose to pursue online bridge programs, but just as often programs include both online and on-campus course components. Students in New Jersey may choose from one of these formats at institutions located in the following cities:
- West Long Branch
- Jersey City
- South Orange
After selecting a program, schools typically require prospective students to meet the following requirements prior to enrolling:
- Hold a nursing diploma or ADN nursing degree from an accredited institution
- Maintain a minimum GPA in prior coursework
- Submit official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended
- Complete an MSN program application and pay a fee
- Write a personal statement
- Submit two professional letters of recommendation
- Submit two examples of scholarly writing
- Complete a faculty interview if requested
- If applying for an APN certification pathway program, have at least two years of full-time patient care experience
RN-MSN Bridge Program Outline
RNs who hold diplomas or ADNs are required to complete undergraduate bridge coursework, which is often scheduled in lieu of open electives. In some cases, schools confer a BSN before allowing students to move on to graduate-level coursework, while in other cases schools combine bachelor’s and graduate level coursework in a more accelerated process.
Regardless of the specialty focus, RN-MSN programs typically involve graduate-level coursework in the following areas:
- General Master of Science in Nursing core curriculum including classes in Theory Development and Advanced Research, Advanced Nursing Philosophies & Issues and Nursing Leadership
- Courses specific to a nurse’s area of interest (informatics, education, leadership, etc.)
- A Master’s project or thesis. In some cases students take an accompanying course, while in others students must complete their project outside of class
An RN to MSN program typically involves completing between 400 and 650 experience hours in the intended area of practice during the practicum component of the program. Those in non-clinical programs will complete these hours with a professional in their intended career area, while advanced practice nursing students will complete a clinical rotation at a local hospital or clinic in their chosen patient care role.
Specialized APN Certification Programs
Specialized programs are available specifically for students looking to pursue Advanced Practice Nursing certification. Typically students will choose this option on their initial MSN program application, in addition to a patient care role and patient population focus. They then complete the general MSN coursework above in addition to classes pertaining to their chosen role and focus.
The New Jersey Board of Nursing recognizes the following advanced practice roles and patient population foci:
- Nurse Practitioner in Adult, Family, Pediatric, Gerontological, Acute Care, Adult and Family Psychiatric/Mental Health, Women’s Health or Neonatal
- Clinical Nurse Specialist in Medical/Surgical, Gerontological, Adult Psychiatric/Mental Health, Child and Adolescent Psychiatric/Mental Health, or Acute and Critical Care
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
Students in any of these roles will take general coursework in addition to classes tailored to their role and patient population focus, such as the following:
- Advanced Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
- Family Systems Practicum
- Advanced Practice Role Development (geared toward the student’s specific role)
Qualifying for Advanced Practice Nursing Licensure in New Jersey
Prior to obtaining APN certification through the New Jersey Board of Nursing, students will need to acquire national certification credentials through a national body in their respective field of practice. Each of these bodies maintains their own unique application, exam and credentialing process, and students must obtain the appropriate national credentials before applying for advanced licensure at the state level.
New Jersey Board of Nursing-Approved Credentialing Bodies
Nurse Practitioners (NPs) may be certified by any of the following bodies:
- American Nurses Credentialing Center for those intending to practice in Adult, Family, Pediatric, Gerontological, Acute Care or Psychiatric/Mental Health care
- Pediatric Nursing Certification Board for those in Pediatric care
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners for those in Adult/Gerontology and Adult care
- National Certification Corporation for those in Women’s Health and Neonatal care
Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) may be certified through the:
- American Nurses Credentialing Center for Medical/Surgical, Gerontological, Adult Psychiatric/Mental Health, Child and Adolescent Psychiatric/Mental Health nursing
- American Association of Critical Care Nurses for Acute and Acute/Critical Care nursing
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are certified through the National Board of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists.
After obtaining certification through one of these boards, graduates may then apply for Advanced Practice Nursing certification through the New Jersey Board. To do so, future APNs must request an application through the Board by emailing APN@dca.lps.state.nj.us with their contact information, degree information, advanced practice role, and a request for an Initial Certification. The Board will then send the application, and graduates must then submit the completed application, proof of a New Jersey RN license, a $100 fee, official transcripts, and proof of national certification credentials.
Opportunities for MSN Graduates in Advanced Practice and Non-Clinical Roles
Kaiser Health News reported that New Jersey was among several states considering legislation that would allow nurse practitioners to exercise a greater amount of autonomy in patient care. As such, APN certified nurses who join the state’s workforce not only help provide a solution to the state’s primary care shortage, they may also enjoy a greater level of autonomy than in years past.
Graduates of RN-MSN bridge programs in non-clinical tracks take on other crucial roles in the healthcare field after graduation. Many choose to remain at their current facilities of employment and transition into higher-level roles as directors of nursing, nurse administrators or healthcare information specialists. All of these positions require greater amounts of responsibility and contribute to the overall quality of care at hospitals and clinics.
Some MSN-qualified nurses also continue on to become professors and educators in the state’s nursing education programs. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing notes that 895 qualified applicants were turned away from the state’s nursing programs in 2013, so nurses who go this route fill an essential role in expanding the number of students that can be enrolled in these programs.
The following are a few positions shown for illustrative purposes that MSN-qualified nurses might transition as of March 2015:
Education and leadership:
- Clinical Nurse Educator at Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy
- Chief Nursing Officer at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in Chester
- Pediatric Cardiology Nurse Practitioner at Barnabas Health in Newark
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner at Virtua in Voorhees