According to a 2014 report published by the Oregon Health Authority, the state is expected to see a 17% increase in the projected demand for nurse practitioners by 2020. Graduates of specialty nurse practitioner RN-MSN bridge programs are highly sought by hospitals and clinics throughout the state, and are increasingly being relied upon to serve as primary care providers, particularly in rural areas, which are notoriously medically underserved.
Even with such demand, only 8% of Oregon’s nursing students are enrolled in Master of Science Nursing programs, and only 7.9% of nurses in Oregon hold an APRN license, according to the Oregon State Board of Nursing.
Advanced practice is not the only high needs area of nursing in Oregon that requires a graduate-level education. The state is also experiencing an acute shortage of qualified nurse educators and clinical nurse leaders to prepare and supervise the thousands of entry-level RNs that will be entering the field in the coming years
MSN-prepared nurses consistently earn higher salaries than RNs with associate or baccalaureate preparation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, as of 2011 MSN-qualified nurse administrators in the Portland area earned an average salary of $110,000—nearly $32,00 more than the average annual salary for Portland RNs.
Enrolling in an RN-MSN Bridge Program in Oregon
Working RNs may choose from flexible online or distance learning degree program options that accommodate their busy schedules. Students may choose from online programs, or may attend on-campus or hybrid RN-MSN programs at two campus locations in Portland.
Bridge Program Prerequisites
Due to the small number of RN-MSN programs in Oregon and as a result of nationwide faculty shortages detailed by a 2013 report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, students should expect admission to be competitive.
Programs will outline additional admission requirements such as the following:
- Submit official transcripts from all colleges and universities
- Maintain a cumulative 3.0 out of 4.0 in all prior coursework
- Write a statement of goals essay
- Submit a resume
- Submit two letters of recommendation
- Complete an admission review upon request
- Complete a college-level statistics course
- Submit a scholarly writing sample
- Submit proof of a current, unencumbered RN license
- Submit GRE scores if applicant’s GPA is below 3.5 out of 4.0
- Students may use the NursingCAS as a means of applying. The CAS is a general nursing admissions system that participant schools use to screen applicants and which allows students to apply to multiple schools with a single application.
RN-MSN Bridge Program Outline
RN-MSN programs in Oregon generally involve between 50 and 70 credit hours over 2 to 3 years depending on previous education and the program’s specialization:
- 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
Most RN to MSN programs consist of about 60 graduate-level credit hours. BSN coursework is generally completed first, although a number of programs allow students to combine both graduate and undergraduate coursework.
General Course Outline
General RN-MSN programs are designed to build on students’ patient care knowledge with expertise in organizational leadership, human resource management and information systems. With these skills, many RNs transition into higher levels of responsibility at their current facilities of employment or pursue new roles in nursing administration and education.
Students will encounter the following types of coursework in a general RN-MSN program:
- Core Master’s-level curriculum in classes such as Leading Academic & Health Services Organizations, Advanced Nursing Knowledge and Leadership and Clinical & Organizational Effectiveness
- Specialized courses in a student’s particular area of interest (informatics, administration, education, etc.)
- A final project or Master’s thesis requirement, sometimes involving an accompanying course, where students synthesize research and write a capstone paper
Students in these general RN-MSN programs and those pursuing APRN licensure will also need to complete anywhere between 400 and 700 hours of required professional experience prior to graduation. General students will shadow administrative and leadership professionals in the field, while future APRNs will complete advanced clinical care rotations at a medical facility working in partnership with their program.
Specialized APRN Programs
Specialized programs are also available for RNs looking to pursue advanced clinical care with an APRN license. Students with these goals will need to choose a specific advanced practice nursing role and patient population focus as part of their application. They will complete much of the general RN-MSN coursework above in addition to specialized courses pertaining to their chosen role and population focus.
Oregon offers specialized programs for the following roles and patient population foci:
- Nurse Practitioner in Adult/Gerontology Acute & Primary Care, Pediatric Acute & Primary Care, Psychiatric/Mental Health, Family Practice
- Nurse Midwife (note: although offered as a separate academic program, the Oregon State Board of Nursing considers the nurse midwife role a subset of the nurse practitioner. Midwives will therefore apply for their APRN with the nurse practitioner application)
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
Students take specialized courses specific to their role and focus, such as:
- Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Management
- Advanced Physiology & Pathophysiology
- Principles of Pharmacology and Prescribing for Advanced Practice Nurses
- Understanding & Intervening in Common Mental Health Problems in the Elderly
Becoming an APRN-Licensed Nurse in Oregon
Before the Board will confer an APRN license, RN-MSN graduates must apply for certification through a national credentialing body specific to their role and population focus, each of which maintain their own exam, application process and requirements. Students are expected to submit the appropriate materials and pass the exam before applying for APRN licensure with the Oregon Board of Nursing.
National Credentialing Bodies Approved by the Oregon Board of Nursing
The following bodies provide Board-accepted certification for Certified Nurse Practitioners (CNPs) in Oregon:
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners for Adult/Gerontology Primary Care and Adult CNPs
- American Association of Critical Care Nurses for Acute Care CNPs
- American Nurses Credentialing Center for Acute Care, Adult, Family Practice, Pediatric and Psychiatric/Mental Health CNPs
- National Certification Corporation for Women’s Health and Neonatal CNPs
- Pediatric Nursing Certification Board for Pediatric and Pediatric Acute Care CNPs
Nurse Midwives are licensed as CNPs in Oregon but must be certified through the American College of Nurse Midwives.
The National Board of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists provides appropriate certification for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs).
The American Association of Critical Care Nurses provides acceptable certification for Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs).
Applying for an APRN License in Oregon
After obtaining certification through one of these national certifying bodies, candidates must apply for an Advanced Practice Registered Nursing license through the Oregon State Board of Nursing. To do so, graduates must:
- Submit the Nurse Practitioner Application packet, CNS Application packet or CRNA Application packet and a $150 fee
- Read and sign the state’s booklet on prescriptive authority and pay a $75 fee, in addition to a $95 prescriptive authority license fee for APRNs who plan to prescribe medication (CNPs and CNSs are required to do so by law in Oregon; other roles may choose)
- Provide a copy of their RN license
- Have transcripts sent directly from their academic institution
- Complete a criminal background check and pay a $52 fee
Career Opportunities for APRNs in Oregon
With the majority of the state’s counties experiencing primary care provider shortages according to a 2014 report released by the Oregon Office of Rural Health, APRN-licensed nurses increasingly fill the gap by providing advanced clinical care for patients across the lifespan. The following are a few jobs into which these Advance Practice Registered Nurses might transition (as of March 2015):
- Family Practice Nurse Practitioner at Radius Medical Group in Eugene
- Emergency Nurse Practitioner at Clinical Management Consultants in Medford
- Medical-Surgical Clinical Nurse Specialist at Legacy Health in Portland
Transitioning Into Non-APRN as an RN-MSN Graduate in Oregon
RN-MSN graduates who do not choose to pursue APRN licensure transition into high-level positions in healthcare systems management, administration, education, human resources and informatics. These professionals use their master’s-level skills to streamline information systems, promote staff competency and improve patient outcomes at hospitals and clinics.
Others go on to pursue professorships in Oregon’s nursing education programs. As noted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, nationwide faculty shortages have severely impaired the ability for nursing education programs to prepare the number of qualified nurses the country needs. RN-MSN graduates who pursue careers in education not only ensure competency in new nurses, the hundreds of nurses they train go on to ease the country’s clinical care shortage.
As of March 2015, the following are a few positions into which MSN-educated nurses might transition:
- Medical/Surgical Nurse Manager at PeaceHealth in Springfield
- Director of Mental Health Nursing at Telecare Corp. in Woodburn
- Critical Care Nursing Internship Program Coordinator at OHSU in Portland