RN to MSN Programs in Wisconsin

Though nurses make up the largest segment of the healthcare workforce in Wisconsin, there is a critical need for more qualified nursing professionals in the state. This became painfully clear when the Wisconsin Center for Nursing released the results of study showing that a projected shortage of almost 20,000 nurses is expected by the year 2025. According to the same report, by 2030 there will be a shortage of more than 2,000 physicians in Wisconsin. The shortage of physicians will increase the demand for advanced practice nurses, as they are increasingly relied upon to provide primary care needs of the residents in Wisconsin.

Specialty track RN-MSN programs provide the foundation for Advanced Practice Nurse Prescriber (APNP) licensure through the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.

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Wisconsin’s elderly population is on pace to grow by 111% between 2000 and 2035, in addtion to a general population that will increase by 24% during this time. These increases in both average age and population size will put even more preassure on APNPs to take up the slack as primary care providers. The Wisconsin Campaign for Action is leading an initiative to increase the number of APNPs in the state by a minimum of 10% and double the number of graduating APNPs by 2020. In addition, a statewide loan forgiveness program is under review for APNPs who practice in underserved and rural areas of Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Nurses Association along with the Wisconsin Board of Nursing and the Wisconsin Center for Nursing are working collaboratively with employers, legislators and other necessary personnel to remove barriers to practice for APNPs, allowing them to practice to the full extent of their capabilities.

RN-MSN Programs in Wisconsin

The objectives of the Master of Science in Nursing include:

  • Function effectively in advanced nursing practice
  • Function as an effective leader for clients in clinical practice and education
  • Demonstrate accountability and responsibility in developing roles for advanced nursing
  • Understand factors influencing health care system and higher education

Bridge programs are a fast track to an MSN, saving time and money when a nonclinical specialty track or APNP license is the ultimate goal. Most programs can be completed in two – three years.

Designed to accommodate working nurses, RN-MSN programs are typically offered completely online or allow for a combination of online and campus-based courswork offered during evenings and weekends. Campus locations in Wisconsin can be found in the cities of:

  • Mequon
  • Eau Claire
  • Fond du Lac
  • Green Bay
  • Milwaukee
  • Madison
  • La Crosse

Admission requirements will differ for each institution in Wisconsin but will generally have the same foundations. Additionally, MSN programs are highly competitive so high GPAs will be extremely important. Requirements typically include the following:

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (AND) or diploma from a NLNAC or CCNE-accredited program
  • Current Wisconsin RN license
  • Two – three professional references
  • Overall GPA of 3.0 or higher in undergraduate courses
  • Current CPR certification.

RN-MSN Program Structure and Coursework

Enrolling in an RN-MSN program with a diploma or associate’s degree means starting off completing the necessary baccalaureate-level bridge courses, which effectively bridge the gap between existing knowledge and MSN coursework. In this way, most RN to MSN programs actually result in both a BSN and MSN.

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Examples of possible bridge course requirements include:

  • Management and leadership for RNs
  • Community health nursing
  • Health assessment
  • Research and theory of nursing
  • Nursing ethics and professionalism

Regardless of the intended specialized track, RN-MSN programs will all include similar core graduate-level coursework. The curriculum for RN-MSN programs will vary by college and specialty, but the Wisconsin State Board of Nursing requires the following core courses:

  • Advanced health assessment
  • Statistical applications
  • Evidence based practice
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical practicum

In all tracks (advanced practice, education, administration, public health, etc), specialized coursework is included specific to the area of specialty.

For those studying to become advanced clinicians, RN to MSN programs are available with specialized career tracks in the four recognized advanced practice roles, each with its own coursework and clinical requirements:

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


RN-MSN Programs as a Pathway to an APNP License in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Board of Nursing grants prescriptive authority to RNs qualified to become licensed as Advanced Practice Nurse Prescribers (APNPs). Before being granted licensure and the prescriptive authority that this entails, they must first achieve national certification in their specialized role. The recognized APNP roles are:

  • Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

Additionally, the Board recognizes Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) as advanced clinicians.

National certification is achieved through various certifying bodies depending on the role and patient population focus:

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center for Nurse Practitioner specialties including but not limited to: Family, Gerontology, Women’s Health, Mental Health & Pediatrics
  • National Board of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists for Nurse Anesthetists
  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners for Adult Nurse Practitioners and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care
  • National Certification Corporation for Ob/Gyn or Neonatal Nurse Practitioners
  • American Association of Critical Care Nurses for Acute and Critical Care Nurse Specialists
  • American Midwifery Certification Board for Nurse Midwives

After receiving national certification, APNP licensing in Wisconsin requires the completion of an Application for Advanced Practice Nurse Prescriber and passing scores on the jurisprudence examination for Advanced Practice Nurse Prescribers.

Proof of a minimum of 45 contact hours in clinical pharmacology/therapeutics must be submitted within three years of applying for national certification. If the APNP anticipates that they may also write scripts for controlled substances, they must also register with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Like physicians, APNPs are often required to carry liability insurance in Wisconsin. The exceptions to this are as follows:

  • When APNP is an employee of the state or a government subdivision.
  • When the APNP is already covered under a group liability policy.
  • When the APNP is working under direct supervision of a physician or nurse anesthetist and does not prescribe without supervision.


Career Opportunities for MSN-Educated Nurses in Wisconsin

MSN holders are becoming increasingly important in Wisconsin as the state faces major primary care provider shortages. In fact, over 70% of Wisconsin residents live in Health Professional Shortage Areas. APNPs are being called upon to fill those shortages and take on additional medical responsibilities for which they have been trained and certified.

MSN degrees offer additional career advancement opportunities that involve leadership responsibilities, both in and out of the clinical setting.

Examples of jobs available to APNPs and other MSN-educated nurses in Wisconsin as of early 2015 include (shown for illustrative purposes):

  • Corporate Nurse Practitioner – Sensia Wellness, Milwaukee
  • Physician Assistant/Nurse Practitioner – Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
  • Health and Wellness Nurse Practitioner – Healthstat, Grafton
  • Advanced Practice Nurse – ProHealth Care, Waukesha
  • Diabetes Nurse Practitioner – ProHealth Care, Waukesha
  • Travel Med Surg RN – Medical Staffing Network, Milwaukee
  • Nursing Faculty – Milwaukee School of Engineering, Milwaukee
  • Chief Nursing Officer – Chapel Hill Solutions, Green Bay
  • Dean of Nursing – Rasumussen College, Green Bay

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