RN to MSN Programs in Rhode Island

Skilled nurses educated at the graduate level are becoming more and more critical as an overhaul to the health care system takes place and an aging population requires additional care. As the front line in patient care, nurses generally work more closely with patients than physicians do, making them well suited to serve as primary care providers.

Of the 17,573 RNs working in Rhode Island as of 2013, 1,186 were licensed as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN). The State of Rhode Island Department of Health recognizes three APRN roles and select patient population foci:

  • Nurse Practitioners provide primary and acute care to patients across a lifespan
  • Certified Registered Nurses work with anesthetists to administer anesthesia
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists are specialized by disease or population setting
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The State of Rhode Island Department of Health has implemented changes to the Nurse Practice Act effective October 2014 allowing APRNs to serve as a primary or acute care providers.

These changes are a major win for APRNs in the state, as they remove barriers that prevented them from performing duties to the full extent of their education and experience. This is particularly important because more than 33% of the population in Rhode Island lives in medically underserved areas, meaning primary care is harder to obtain. Primary care is important to overall health because it ensures that the patient receives the proper care and is referred to the proper specialty physician when necessary.

RN-MSN programs with advanced clinician specialty tracks provide the most efficient path to APRN licensure. Other specialized RN-MSN programs prepare nurses to enter other key areas such as public health nursing, nursing administration, nursing education and clinical leadership.

Rhode Island’s RN-MSN Programs

Rhode Island offers students the opportunity to complete RN-MSN programs either entirely online, or through campus-based programs that offer part of their course load online. Students can also choose part-time or full-time programs to accommodate their schedules.

These flexible programs are available in the following cities:

  • Pawtucket
  • Providence
  • North Providence
  • Kingston

Programs are available to generalists, while specialty tracks are available specific to advanced practice roles, administration, clinical leadership, public health, education, informatics and more.

Students should be prepared for admission by having a solid foundation in math and science courses and excellent grades on all previous post-secondary education. Admission to RN-MSN programs is typically granted by meeting the following requirements:

  • Diploma or ADN from a CCNE or NLNAC accredited program
  • Submit official transcripts of all undergraduate courses
  • Receive minimum grade of C in approved statistics course
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate course work
  • GRE (Graduate Record Examination) report or MA (Miller Analogies) test
  • Current unencumbered and unrestricted RN license in Rhode Island.
  • Professional résumé
  • Three professional references

RN-MSN Bridge Program Outline

RN-MSN students will be required to complete a specific number of bachelor’s degree-level courses, also referred to as bridge courses. These courses bridge the gap between undergraduate and graduate level courses. Certain programs require these courses to be completed at the beginning of the program, before advancing to the master’s-level core nursing courses. However, some programs work the baccalaureate courses evenly into the program so that students are completing both baccalaureate and master’s-level courses simultaneously throughout their education.

In most programs, students will earn both their BSN and MSN after completing the program. Other programs bypass conferring a BSN-degree.

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After completing undergraduate bridge courses, RN-MSN programs in Rhode Island are typically organized in the following way:

  • Core courses in nursing theory, nursing research, theories of practice and leadership in the process of health policy
  • Nursing courses with focus on studying problems and nursing strategies in client and client-nurse systems
  • Courses that focus on the chosen concentration area (advanced practice, administration, education, etc.)

Core courses may include the following:

  • Theoretical Study of Phenomena in Nursing
  • Nursing Research
  • Theories of Practice for Nursing
  • Advanced Leadership in the Health Policy Process
  • Graduate Study Seminar

How to Become an APRN in Rhode Island

APRN licenses are issued by applying to the State of Rhode Island Department of Health. Recent regulation changes to the Nurse Practice Act have been implemented as of October 2014 allowing APRNs to serve as a primary or acute care providers.

The scope of the APRN has also been redefined to include the following duties:

  • Perform advanced assessments
  • Diagnose
  • Prescribe
  • Be accountable to patients
  • Recognize limits of knowledge and experience
  • Plan how to manage situations outside of expertise
  • Consult and refer patients to other providers when necessary

Genral requirement for APRN licensure include: follows:

  • Be of good moral character.
  • RN license in Rhode Island.
  • Cannot have an encumbered RN license in any other state or territory.
  • Graduation from an accredited APRN graduate or post-graduate program.
  • Have national certification in an APRN role.
  • Report any criminal conviction.
  • No acts or omissions that would be grounds for disciplinary action.

National certification is required prior to licensure in the state of Rhode Island and can be achieved through one of the following agencies:

Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP):

Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA):

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS):

The Board may choose to issue an initial APRN license to clinical nurse specialists without a national certification exam in the following situations:

  • A national certification does not exist for the current population focus
  • The applicant has submitted proof of graduation, official transcripts including pharmacology, pathophysiology and physical assessment courses and letters of recommendation from employer attesting to the CN’s ability to practice at the advanced level.

Career Opportunities in Rhode Island for MSN-Educated Nurses

MSN degrees allow for career advancement opportunities that include leadership, education, administrative and advanced clinical roles. Advancing to APRN licensure will open up even more doors and allow an RN to become an independent practitioner.

Shown here as an example of the opportunities available with an MSN, the following jobs were advertised to MSN-educated nurses in Rhode Island as of early 2015:

  • HEA NCLEX RN Faculty – Kaplan, Providence
  • Nurse Manger – Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, Pawtucket
  • Nursing Supervisor – CharterCARE Health Parnters, Providence
  • Geriatric Nurse Practitioner – University Medicine Foundation, Providence
  • Nurse Manager Perioperative – CMC, Barrington
  • Certified Nurse Midwife – Lifespan, Newport
  • Director Emergency Department – Bowen & Briggs, Warwick
  • Nurse Practitioner – National Grid, Providence

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