RN to MSN Programs in North Dakota

RN-MSN bridge programs have become an increasingly popular route to advanced clinical and non-clinical roles in North Dakota. In fact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that nearly 30% of North Dakota’s 1,500 nursing students were enrolled in master’s-level degree programs in 2013.

Graduates of these programs find employment in nursing education, administration and clinical leadership, or choose to obtain APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse license) licensure through the North Dakota Board of Nursing.

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Earnings for both MSN qualified RNs and APRNs are far greater than RNs with associate or baccalaureate education. In fact, as of 2011 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the median salary in Bismarck for MSN qualified nurse professionals was $19,600 higher than that of BSN and ADN qualified RNs.

In addition, RN-MSN graduates who pursue an APRN license are able to meet the state’s growing need for primary care providers in rural areas. In 2011 North Dakota’s governor enacted a law that widened the APRN scope of practice to include prescribing medications without restrictive physician oversight in these areas, allowing APRNs joining the field to practice to the fullest extent of their expertise.

Enrolling in an RN-MSN Bridge Program in North Dakota

There are two RN-MSN bridge program options in North Dakota. Located in Bismarck, the first institution offers a completely online RN-MSN program for ADN or BSN qualified RNs. This is ideal for students who plan to continue practicing under their RN license while enrolled in school. Students who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or choose to pursue one concurrently may select a hybrid campus/online program in Grand Forks.

Bridge Program Prerequisites

Due to high demand for APRNs and MSN-qualified healthcare leaders, admission to RN-MSN programs is competitive and students are generally expected to have between one and three years of Registered Nursing experience before applying.

Students will encounter additional requirements set out by their academic institution before enrolling, such as the following:

  • If entering a BSN required RN – MSN program, hold a baccalaureate degree in nursing from an accredited nursing program
  • Have completed an undergraduate or graduate statistics course
  • Have maintained a minimum GPA of at least 3.0 for the final two years of baccalaureate study
  • Hold a current, unencumbered North Dakota RN licensure
  • Successfully complete an interview at the institution
  • Submit three letters of recommendation
  • Submit a current resume
  • Write a statement of goals
  • Submit official transcripts from any undergraduate institutions attended

RN-MSN Bridge Program Outline

Students in RN-MSN degree programs re-enter the field as MSN-qualified healthcare leaders, educators and generalists, or choose to obtain an APRN license and work in more specialized clinical positions. While a significant amount of course overlap exists, program lengths for both ADN and BSN qualified RNs vary depending on the type of program a student chooses.

For example, a student will complete around 45 credits over 2 years for an ADN-MSN program in hospital administration. In contrast, a BSN – MSN program for nurse practitioners pursuing an APRN license may involve around 60 credits over 2 – 3 years. Some programs confer a BSN to ADN- MSN graduates, while others consolidate coursework so ADN-prepared nurses can move directly into a Master of Science in Nursing.

Required courses are determined in part by the level of education a student has already achieved. Nurses with diplomas or ADNs will need to complete upper-division undergraduate courses before starting graduate courses. Often these courses are taken early in the program in place of open electives.

Graduates of general MSN programs in North Dakota build on their patient-care expertise and gain high-level skills in administration, healthcare leadership and human resources. These generalist students will complete coursework of the following types:

  • Master of Science in Nursing core including courses such as Nursing Leadership and Applied Healthcare Economics, Finance and Budgeting
  • General coursework in Healthcare Systems and Human Resource Management
  • Elective courses in a student’s area of interest (Nurse Educator, Nurse Administrator, etc.)
  • A Master’s thesis course involving research synthesis and a final paper

All RN-MSN students also complete a professional experience requirement. Time commitments may be as low as 90 hours for generalist students, or as high as 600 clinical care hours for MSN graduates looking to obtain APRN licensure. In either case, professional experience hours are completed at a healthcare facility in partnership with the student’s program.

Specialized APRN Programs

Nurses looking to work in advanced clinical care pursue RN-MSN bridge programs as a pathway to APRN licensure and prepare for any of the following roles:

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

Nurse Practitioners also choose to focus on a patient population such as adult/gerontology, family, pediatrics, mental or women’s health.

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Students pursuing one of these roles will take much of the general MSN coursework above, in addition to courses that pertain to their chosen APRN role and population focus, such as the following:

  • Advanced Physiology/Pathophysiology
  • Essentials in Epidemiology
  • Adult-Gerontology Illness Management
  • Role Development of the Nurse Practitioner
  • Advanced Pharmacology for Primary Care


Obtaining an APRN License in North Dakota

Before obtaining their APRN license, a national credentialing body must certify future nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists and clinical nurse specialists in their respective areas of practice. Each one has its own exam requirements and credentialing application, and students must pass these exams to receive certification through the body before applying for an APRN license through the North Dakota Board of Nursing.

Board-Approved Credentialing Bodies

The following bodies provide acceptable certification for nurse practitioners in North Dakota:

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center for the following patient population foci: Acute and Primary Adult, Family Psychiatric and Mental Health, Family, Gerontological, Pediatric
  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners for Adult and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care
  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board for Acute and Primary Pediatric
  • National Certification Corporation for Women’s Health Care and Neonatal
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center for Adult Psychiatric

The following bodies provide acceptable certification for clinical nurse specialists:

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center for Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center for Adult Health, Gerontological, Child and Adolescent Psychiatric and Mental Health

Registered nurse anesthetists must apply for certification through National Board of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists.

Nurse Midwives must apply for certification through the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).

After obtaining the appropriate nationwide certification, RN-MSN graduates then apply for APRN licensure with the North Dakota Board of Nursing. To do so, students must fill out the APRN Initial Application, provide their certification credentials and a copy of their North Dakota RN license, pay a $100 fee and pass a background check.

Students may apply for a 90-day permit to practice if their application is on file and they are currently awaiting results from their certification exam. Students who want prescriptive privileges may also fill out an Application for Initial Prescriptive Authority here.

Career Opportunities for RN-MSN Bridge Program Graduates in North Dakota

As the state’s primary care needs increase with its influx of rural oil workers according to the North Dakota Action Coalition in March 2014, APRN-licensed MSN graduates are highly sought by healthcare facilities throughout the state. Examples of positions into which such graduates might transition as of March 2015, are:

  • Nurse Practitioner at Sanford Heart Hospital in Fargo
  • Nurse Anesthetist at St. Alexius in Bismarck
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist at Trinity Kenmare Hospital in Minot

General RN-MSN degree program graduates also serve North Dakota’s growing healthcare needs and often transition into high level roles in hospitals and clinics, taking on positions as nurse educators, administrative specialists, directors of nursing and clinical nurse leaders. Examples of such positions include (March 2015):

  • Director of Nursing at Elim Care in Bismarck
  • System Manager in Clinical Documentation at Essentia Health in Fargo
  • Interim Director of Nurses at Richardton Health Center in Richardton

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