According to the Vermont Action Coalition, Vermont’s nurses need to be better prepared educationally as the healthcare needs of Vermont’s residents increase in complexity. Of the 16,678 active, licensed RNs in Vermont as of 2013, just 5 percent have completed an MSN, according to a 2014 report released by the University of Vermont’s Area Health Education Center (AHEC) titled Vermont’s Future of Nursing.
Further, MSN-educated RNs can fulfill roles as health educators and faculty in higher education institutions. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) released a report on the state of Vermont’s healthcare education, stating that 429 qualified students were turned away from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in Vermont in 2013. This was due, in part, to insufficient numbers of faculty. RNs who have earned their MSN can contribute towards reversing this shortage by pursuing a nurse educator track.
MSN-educated RNs are also qualified to fulfill many advanced employment roles in healthcare leadership, administration, and as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who specialize as nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists.
Admission to Vermont’s RN to MSN Programs
RN to MSN programs are typically offered as bridge programs for working RNs who would like to return to school to earn their MSN but currently hold a diploma or ADN as their highest degree-level.
Though none of Vermont’s nursing schools currently offer RN to MSN programs, there is more than 160 colleges and universities in the U.S. offering online RN to MSN programs that Vermont’s RNs can take advantage of.
To apply to an online RN to MSN program, students will first submit an application to the college or university they have chosen. Requirements for admission will vary from one school to another but students should expect to provide or possess the following:
- Non-refundable application fee
- Associate’s degree or diploma in nursing
- Minimum undergraduate GPA requirement
- Current RN licensure
- A minimum number of years of RN work experience
- Completion of an interview
- Current CPR certification
- Certified background check
- Official transcripts from undergraduate education
RN to MSN Program Requirements
Online RN to MSN programs are particularly convenient for working RNs with limited time in their schedules. Based on the student’s full-time or part-time enrollment status and existing education, online RN to MSN programs can take as many as three to four years to complete:
- 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
While some higher education institutions offer a general MSN program, students often choose a specialized program track geared towards the career path they are seeking. The specialized tracks can include any of the following options, or sometimes a combination of two:
- Clinical Nurse Leader
- Patient Care Services Administration
- Nursing Education
- Diabetes Nursing
- Nursing Informatics
- Nursing Leadership and Administration
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Nurse Midwifery
- Nurse Practitioner (involves patient population focus in one of several areas)
Students will be required to complete a specific number of bachelor’s degree-level courses, also referred to as bridge courses, to bridge the gap between their associate’s degree and the master’s degree they are earning. 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.
Further, in some programs, students will earn both their BSN and MSN after completing their program. Other programs bypass conferring a BSN-degree.
The required baccalaureate courses are decided and set by each school respectively but can include:
- Introduction to Nursing Concepts
- Health Assessment, Communication, and Collaboration for Quality Outcomes
- Introduction to Nursing Research and Technology
- Law, Ethics, and Regulations
- Nursing Leadership and Management
- Care Management: Individuals and Family
- Populations and Global Health
- Anatomy & Physiology II
- Health Care Financial Administration
Students will also complete core nursing courses specific to the program track they have chosen. These courses will vary between schools and program tracks but may include the following:
- Evidence-based Practice for Quality Care
- Advanced Pathophysiology
- Health Care Information Systems
- Disease Management and Outcomes Assessment
- Strategic Leadership for Patient Care Services
- Management of Financial Resources
- Leading and Influence with Integrity
- Pharmacology for the Nurse Educator
- Teaching and Learning Strategies
- Care Informatics and Technology
APRN Licensure in Vermont
RNs who have earned their MSN degree may apply to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) in Vermont, specializing as a clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse-midwife, certified registered nurse anesthetist, or, most commonly, a nurse practitioner.
RNs seeking APRN licensure, upon completing an MSN program specific to their chosen specialization, are required to first become nationally certified in their specialization by completing a national certification exam. Further, candidates must choose a least one of the following population foci in their chosen specialization:
- Family/individual across the lifespan
- Women’s health/gender related
- Psychiatric/mental health
Candidates will schedule and complete their examinations through the following national certified bodies, recognized by the Vermont State Board of Nursing:
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS):
- Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP):
- Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM):
- Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA):
Once the candidate has received certification in their APRN specialization, they can submit an application for licensure to the Vermont Board of Nursing. They will also be required to submit or hold the following items, along with their completed application:
- $75.00 non-refundable application fee
- Proof of an active Vermont RN License
- A 2×2 professional photo taken within the last 6 months
- Copy of Driver’s License, government-issued ID, or passport
- Official copy of transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate education, including proof of successful completion of Advanced Pathophysiology, Advanced Assessment, and Pharmacotherapeutics
- Copy of current national APRN certification
- Practice Guidelines submitted prior to any employment as an APRN
Upon successfully submitting the application to the Vermont Board of Nursing and being considered eligible for APRN licensure, the Board will issue the candidate’s APRN license.
Employment for MSN-Educated RNs in Vermont
RNs who have earned their Master of Science in Nursing are eligible for a wide range of specialized employment roles in Vermont.
Examples of some of these opportunities in Vermont as of March 2015 include:
- Nurse Practitioner – FocusStaff, Saint Johnsbury
- Clinical Faculty – Southern Vermont College, Bennington
- Manager of Patient Placement Service (PPS) and Administrative Nurse Coordinator (ANC) – University of Vermont Medical Center, Burlington