According to a January 2014 report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), quality patient care is highly dependent upon having a highly educated nursing workforce.
The Tennessee Action Coalition, comprised of representatives from all of Tennessee’s nursing programs, released a report for November 2013-January 2014, in which they discussed their goal of advancing pathways for a diverse nursing workforce to achieve higher levels of education and training.
As part of achieving this goal, the State of Tennessee has jumped on board with providing RN to MSN programs for its nursing workforce.
These programs are designed specifically for Registered Nurses (RNs) who have earned their Diploma in Nursing or Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) and would like to further their education at the graduate-level.
One of the major benefits of pursuing an MSN is more specialized employment opportunities, also resulting in higher salaries. Further, for nurses who are interested in pursuing a career in teaching in a higher-education institution, an MSN is considered an important pathway toward pursuing the doctoral education required.
Finally, a popular outcome of MSN-completion is Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) certification. APNs are educated at the graduate level and are qualified to specialize in the roles of clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, or nurse practitioner.
The Tennessee Board of Nursing regulates 9,996 APNs as of January 2014. According to the AACN, there were 2,524 nursing students enrolled in a master’s program in Tennessee in 2013.
RN to MSN Program Offerings in Tennessee
Tennessee is home to several colleges and universities offering RN-MSN programs. Many of these institutions can be found in the following cities:
- Jefferson City
- Johnson City
RN-MSN programs in Tennessee are designed with already busy, practicing RNs in mind. Accordingly, many RN-MSN programs in Tennessee offer students the option of part-time or full-time schooling, in addition to offering night and weekend courses, or courses that can be completed entirely online.
RN to MSN Admission Requirements
Admission requirements for RN to MSN programs in Tennessee may vary from one higher education institution to another. However, any of the following items may be required:
- Graduate application, including payment of application fee
- Proof of education/official transcripts of all post high school education
- A minimum GPA requirement
- Proof of RN licensure
- GRE scores
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
- Physical Exam
- Criminal background check
- Drug screen
- Immunization forms
In addition, applicants are required to be eligible to practice nursing in the state where they plan to complete their clinical practica, as a fulfillment of their MSN program requirements.
RN to MSN Program Structure
RN to MSN programs typically take up to two to three years to complete, depending on the student’s enrollment status as a part-time or full-time student and the specific requirements of their program.
Students beginning their RN to MSN program are first required to complete a specific amount of semester hours towards general requirements, or prerequisites. These prerequisites are baccalaureate degree-level courses. Because RN to MSN students have not completed a Baccalaureate Degree in Nursing (BSN), these course requirements are considered necessary to bridge the gap and prepare students academically and mentally for the graduate-level nursing curriculum.
The prerequisites, which are determined by each university, often take one to two semesters to complete and can include:
- Computer Literacy
- Social Science
- Natural Science
For students who have already completed their bachelor’s degree in another field, several higher education institutions offer an accelerated RN-MSN track, requiring a lower number of prerequisite hours to be completed.
After completing the required prerequisites, students then begin their core, specialized nursing courses. These courses will vary depending on the student’s specific program track but can include:
- Advanced Pharmacology
- Advanced Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice
- Theory and Ethics for Advanced Nursing Practice
- Advanced Pathophysiology
- Advanced Health Assessment
- Organizational Behavior & Leadership
- Clinical Prevention and Population Health
- Informatics and Healthcare
- Primary Care Provider Procedures
- Primary Care of Family
Students may also be required to complete a specific amount of hours towards clinical practica, as determined by their university. These clinical experiences provide students hands-on opportunities to practice what they have learned in their courses.
APN Licensure in Tennessee
RNs who have completed their MSN are qualified to apply for an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) certificate. APNs are licensed specifically in one of the following areas of their choice:
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Nurse Midwife
- Nurse Practitioner
Qualifying for APRN licensure after completing a graduate degree or higher in one of the four specialized roles involves passing a national certification exam specific to one of the four advanced practice roles. Specialty role certification candidates can pursue certification and schedule exams directly through the respective certification agencies:
- Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) – National Board on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA)
- Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) – American Association of Critical Nurses (AACN), American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), and Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)
- Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) – American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB)
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)- American Association of Critical Nurses (AACN), and American Association of Critical Nurses (AACN).
Once nationally certified, to pursue APN certification in Tennessee, candidates will first submit the APN application to the Tennessee Board of Nursing, who, upon determining the candidate is eligible, will issue their APN license. Along with completing the application, candidates will be required to submit the following:
- A professional, passport-type photograph (2 ½” x 2 ½”)
- Official transcripts
- Official national specialty certification from certifying body
- Copy of current RN license
- Mandatory Practitioner Profile Questionnaire
- $210 fee (non-refundable)
Candidates will also be required to sign their completed application in the presence of a Notary Public before sending it to the Tennessee Board of Nursing. It may take up to four weeks for the Board to approve the applicant and issue their APN Certificate.
Employment opportunities for MSN-educated RNs
MSN-educated nurses are uniquely qualified to pursue several specialized employment roles. The following are examples of opportunities that may be available to MSN-educated RNs or APNs in Tennessee as of February 2015:
- Clinical Nursing Manager (MSN preferred) – Community Healthcare Facility, Memphis
- Research Nurse Specialist (MSN/Nurse Practitioner APN preferred) – Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s Memory and Alzheimer’s Center, Nashville
- Associate Director of Nursing for Women’s Services (MSN required) – Vanderbilt Center for Women’s Health, Nashville
- Clinical Nurse Coordinator (MSN preferred) – Skyline Medical Center, Nashville
- Nurse Practitioner (MSN/APN required) – The Oxford House, Nashville
On average, MSN-educated nurses can expect to receive a first-year salary of between $57,000 and $88,000, depending on the specialization they pursue.