RN to MSN Programs in North Carolina

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, of the 7,700 nursing students enrolled in North Carolina’s nursing programs in 2013, nearly 30% were master’s students.

Earnings for MSN qualified RNs and APRNs far outpace ADN or BSN educated nurses. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for MSN qualified nurse administrators in Charlotte was more than $27,000 more per year than ADN and BSN educated staff RNs as of 2011.

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Beyond the higher earning potential, RN-MSN bridge programs serve as the ideal pathway to both advanced practice licensure and to other areas of practice that require an advanced degree. Graduates of these programs go on to fill high demand positions in nursing education, administration and clinical leadership, or may choose to obtain an Advanced Practice Registered Nursing license through the North Carolina State Board of Nursing and work in advanced clinical care.

In a state where the elderly population is expected to double by 2020 and 24% of the nursing workforce is expected to retire in the next 10 years, according to the North Carolina Area Health Education Center, MSN graduates not only enjoy higher salaries, they become attractive candidates for internal promotions as demand for skilled nursing services and nurse leaders increases.

Enrolling in an RN-MSN Bridge Program in North Carolina

Given that RN-MSN students are most often already working in the field, many MSN bridge programs offer either a significant portion or all of their nursing coursework online. This accommodates busy schedules and allows RNs to advance their education without comprising their commitment to their current nursing position.

In addition, potential students may choose from campus-based RN-MSN degree programs in the following cities:

  • Durham
  • Greenville
  • Boiling Springs
  • Charlotte
  • Chapel Hill
  • Greensboro
  • Wilmington
  • Culowhee
  • Winston-Salem

MSN Degree Program Prerequisites

Before enrolling in one of these Master of Science in Nursing degree programs, students will typically encounter the following general enrollment requirements at their academic institution of choice:

  • Fill out an MSN program application and pay a fee (In this application, students looking to pursue an APRN will need to select their specialization and patient population focus) Hold an unencumbered North Carolina RN license
  • Have a minimum of one year of clinical experience as an RN within the last three years Enrollment is competitive so more experience is always valued
  • Submit three letters of recommendation from professionals in the nursing field
  • Write a professional statement
  • Send transcripts from all high schools and postsecondary institutions attended
  • Submit a CV of professional nursing experience

RN-MSN Bridge Program Outline

RN-MSN programs are available to both ADN and BSN qualified RNs whether they wish to work in administrative or patient-care settings. Programs will typically involve between 35 and 45 credits over two years for a BSN-MSN or between 47 and 58 credits over three years for an ADN-MSN. Some ADN-MSN programs result in a bachelor’s degree as well as a master’s. Other programs may consolidate coursework so as to allow ADN prepared nurses to move directly to a Master of Science in Nursing program.

Required 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 the graduate-level coursework. These courses are typically taken early in the program in lieu of open electives.

General RN-MSN bridge programs build on RNs’ patient care expertise and prepare them to take on leadership roles in administration, informatics, human resource management, quality improvement and education.

Students in these generalist programs will take classes in the following areas:

  • Master of Science in Nursing core in nursing leadership, research interpretation and scientific writing
  • General coursework in Healthcare Systems and Management
  • Specialized elective courses in the student’s area of interest (administration, education, etc.)
  • A capstone project or master’s thesis course

Programs also typically incorporate around 500 hours of clinical experience in which students shadow preceptors in their field. Generalist MSN students will spend time working with professionals in their area of interest, while future APRNs will complete patient care rotations at a hospital or clinic that works in partnership with their academic institution.

Specialized APRN Programs

Programs are also available for MSN students looking to pursue a career in advanced patient care by earning an APRN license. Students in these programs will typically take some of the general MSN coursework listed above, in addition to courses in their chosen role and patient population focus. The role, patient population focus and any additional subspecialty will then determine the nature of additional coursework and clinical experience.

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Specialized RN-MSN bridge programs are available for the following APRN roles and patient population foci:

  • Nurse Practitioner in one of several patient foci such as adult/gerontology, family practice, neonatology, pediatrics, etc.
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist

Students who decide to pursue one of these paths will take courses focused on clinical care specific to their role and population focus, often in the following areas:

  • Interpreting Research Reports
  • Advanced Health Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning
  • Synthesis and Translation of Evidence
  • Pharmacotherapeutics
  • Population Health and Epidemiology
  • Advanced Practice Nursing Roles


Obtaining an APRN License in North Carolina

Before being licensed, a national credentialing body must first certify graduates that plan to work as nurse practitioners, registered nurse anesthetists, certified nurse midwives or clinical nurse specialists. Each one has a specific certification exam and credentialing process, and students must schedule exams and obtain certification through the body prior to obtaining an APRN license from the North Carolina State Board of Nursing.

Credentialing Bodies Accepted by the North Carolina Board of Nursing

The following bodies can certify nurse practitioners in North Carolina specific to their patient population focus and area of specialization:

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center for Nurse Practitioners specializing in Adult, Family, Pediatric, Gerontological, Acute and Psychiatric Care
  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board specific to Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners specific to Adult-Gerontology and Adult Nurse Practitioners
  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
  • National Certification Corporation for Women’s Health and Neonatal Nurse Practitioners

Nurse anesthetists are certified by the National Board of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists.

The following two bodies can certify clinical nurse specialists:

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center for Clinical Nurse Specialists in Medical-Surgical, Gerontological, and Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
  • American Association of Critical Care Nurses for Clinical Nurse Specialists in Critical and Acute Care

The American Midwifery Certification Board confers the Certified Nurse Midwife credential.

Only after obtaining this certification can RN-MSN graduates apply for APRN licensure. To do so, RN-MSN graduates must submit their national certification credentials and apply for APRN registration with the North Carolina State Board of Nursing in their specific area of specialty. Once the Board receives a graduate’s certification credentials, registration application and fee, and proof of graduation from an accredited RN-MSN degree program, they will confer an APRN license.

Career Opportunities for MSN Degree Program Graduates in North Carolina

As the U.S. faces a shortage of primary care providers due to its aging population and an estimated 30 million more people receiving health insurance in 2014, according to the National Institute for Health Care Reform, APRN qualified nurses are in high demand to fill these growing needs. An example of the positions into which APRN licensed graduates might transition include (February 2015):

  • Nurse Practitioner at Ingenios Health in Winston-Salem
  • Behavioral Health Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner at R.H.A. Inc. in Winston-Salem
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist – Oncology at Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte

Generalist RN-MSN graduates often transition from Registered Nursing to higher-level positions in the health care field, taking on roles as clinical nurse leaders, nurse educators and administrative specialists. Of particula­­r concern is the nation’s need for qualified nursing faculty according the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and MSN qualified RNs are well-suited to fill these positions and train the next generation of nursing professionals. An example of other job opportunities into which they might transition include (February 2015):

  • RN Care Manager at Mission Hospitals in Asheville
  • Nurse Supervisor at Broughton Hospital in Burke County

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