RN to MSN Programs in Virginia

The Healthcare Workforce Data Center in the Virginia Department of Health Professions released an October 2014 report stating that nearly half of Virginia’s active RNs that entered practice with an associate’s degree or lower have continued their education. As of publication of the report, nine percent went on to eventually earn a master’s degree or doctorate. Further, twenty percent of Virginia’s current RNs who have pursued a bachelor’s degree have gone on to pursue a master’s degree.

The Virginia Action Coalition, made up of leaders in Virginia’s healthcare field, is committed to seeing Virginia’s nursing workforce achieve higher levels of education in order to meet the increasingly complex healthcare needs of the state. A Status Report released by the coalition for November 2013-January 2014 stated that progress towards this commitment has been made, as 100% of Virginia’s ADN programs now include academic advising on educational advancement for graduates.

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As a path towards educational progression, Virginia’s nursing workforce can take advantage of Virginia’s RN to MSN programs, designed to help working RNs conveniently earn their Master of Science in Nursing.

RNs that earn their MSN benefit greatly from the wide variety of specialized career opportunities available to them. There are MSN programs geared towards nursing administration and nursing education, as well as programs focused on specific Advance Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) roles (nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, and clinical nurse specialists).

Virginia’s RN to MSN Programs

The majority of RN to MSN programs in Virginia are designed for RNs who have their diploma or ADN and would like to advance their education by earning an MSN online. Virginia’s RN to MSN campus-based programs can be found at higher education institutions in the following cities:

  • Fairfax
  • Lynchburg
  • Winchester

Depending on previous education, Virginia’s RN to MSN programs can take as little as three to four semesters 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

To be accepted for admission to the college or university of their choice, students will submit an application and must also meet several requirements. Admission requirements may differ from school to school, but students may need to submit or hold any of the following items:

  • Nonrefundable application fee
  • Official transcripts
  • Goals statement/Essay
  • Letters of recommendation as required by the program
  • Resume or CV
  • Official exam scores
  • An active U.S. RN license
  • Demonstrated involvement in professional nursing within a required number of years
  • Up-to-date immunizations and health records
  • Completed criminal background check
  • Drug screen

Structure of RN to MSN Programs

Students beginning their MSN will generally be required to complete certain prerequisite courses, as their chosen school determines, before they can officially apply to their master’s program.

Students beginning with a diploma or ADN as their highest degree-level are required to complete a certain amount of baccalaureate-level bridge courses before advancing to their MSN program. These bridge courses ensure that students will be well-prepared for master’s-level education. In addition, certain RN to MSN programs are designed to culminate in these students receiving both a BSN and an MSN upon completion of their program.

Each school will determine the courses required for its students but may require any of the following:

General Requirements:

  • Written Communication
  • Oral Communication/Public Speaking
  • Information Technology
  • Arts
  • Literature
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Western Civilization/World History
  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Statistics
  • Religion, Ethics, or Philosophy

Bridge Courses:

  • Community Health and Epidemiology
  • Theory, Reasoning and Research in Nursing
  • Ethics and Genomics in Nursing Practice
  • Health Across the Lifespan: Communities
  • Leadership and Management in Professional Nursing Practice

Students must complete their general requirement and bridge courses with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to advance to their graduate-level courses.

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Once students have advanced to their MSN program, they may specialize in a specific program track. Each of Virginia’s schools of nursing offer differing track options, but students may be able to specialize in any of the following areas:

  • Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Advanced Clinical Nursing
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Administration
  • Nurse Educator
  • Nurse-Midwifery
  • Health Systems Management
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

The courses these students will complete as part of their core MSN program will differ based on the track they have chosen, but might include the following:

  • Community-Oriented Primary Care
  • Decision Making and Pharmacologic Management
  • Advanced Health Promotion and Assessment Across the Lifespan
  • Pharmacotherapeutics
  • Physiology and Pathophysiology
  • Clinical Applications of Theory
  • Adult Gerontology Primary Care
  • Family Primary Care
  • Administrative Theory in Nursing
  • Administrative Strategies in Nursing
  • Perspectives in Nursing Education

RN to MSN Pathway to APRN Licensure in Virginia

A popular outcome of earning a Master of Science in Nursing is pursuing licensure as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).

Candidates for APRN licensure complete an MSN program track specific to the role they are pursuing licensure for. In Virginia, APRNs specialize in one of the following roles:

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist

After graduating with their MSN in one of the specialized roles, candidates for licensure are first required to become nationally certified in their role by completing a certifying exam. Candidates may apply for and schedule their examination through any of the following certifying bodies recognized by the Virginia Joint Boards of Nursing and Medicine:

Once candidates have received national certification for their specialized APRN role, they may submit an online application to the Virginia Board of Nursing to receive their license. In addition to submitting the applications, applicants must complete the following items in order to be deemed eligible for licensure:

  • Have a current, active RN license in Virginia
  • Submit proof of an MSN degree in the appropriate specialty from a program approved by the Virginia Board of Nursing
  • Submit proof of national certification in the appropriate specialty
  • Submit application fee

Opportunities for Employment in Virginia for MSN-Educated RNs

MSN-educated RNs and APRNs in Virginia have the opportunity to pursue a large number of specialized employment opportunities unavailable to RNs who do not hold a master’s degree or higher.

Examples of some of these specialized roles in Virginia as of February 2015 include:

  • Registered Nurse: Outpatient Infusion – Valley Health, Winchester
  • RN Faculty – ECPI University, Virginia Beach
  • Nurse Educator: Labor & Delivery Unit – Reston Hospital Center, Reston
  • Clinical Nurse Coordinator – Pulaski Community Hospital, Pulaski

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