Registered nurses provide care and support for patients, patients’ families, and communities, educating them on how best to manage their lifestyles and prevent illness. Nurses work closely with their patients, recognizing their needs, both physically and mentally, providing evidence-based interventions, taking care of communities, and advocating for change when they recognize a need.
Nurses are kind and caring and must show compassion and empathy for patients and their families. If you’re considering nursing as a profession, there are two routes you can take to obtain recognition as a registered nurse: an associate degree through a recognized education institution, or a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) degree through a university. Once you have qualified, you will need to sit the NCLEX-RN exam, which gives you the status of a registered nurse (RN).
Associate degrees take two years to complete, while a BSN degree will take four years. With an associate degree, the next step in your career would be to obtain a BSN degree and, following that, a Master of Science in nursing degree (MSN). An RN to MSN qualification will take one to two years if you study full-time and up to four years when studying part-time.
Once you have about two years’ experience as an RN, you may decide that it’s time to expand your working horizons. Nursing is an ongoing learning experience as you strive to keep up with the latest updates in methodology and technology, so why not formalize your learning with a further qualification? Wilkes University offers various online RN to MSN bridge programs that enable you to bypass the bachelor’s degree and obtain your master’s degree with one of the three nurse practitioner specialties on offer.
Why consider a bridging course to obtain your MSN?
Bridging courses offer some great benefits, such as cost savings and cutting out a year or two of study time, accelerating your final graduation day and qualification as a professional nurse practitioner.
Below, we expand on the benefits and give you some pointers on how to go about obtaining finance.
Online study offers flexibility so that you can manage your full-time job and study at your own pace. Online study means you can still work and gain the necessary experience to enhance your skills and elevate your status as a nurse. At the same time, you will acquire new knowledge from your studies that can be applied in your current nursing environment.
With online study, you will have the support and guidance of various specialists in your chosen field of study, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable learning experience as you juggle work and study.
Nursing degrees require a period of practical work in a clinical setting that is approved by the institution you are studying at and complies with state legislation. When enrolling for a degree in nursing, it is wise to choose a university that offers to manage your clinical placement for you, as this saves you valuable time and ensures that you will not be disappointed as placements are not always readily available.
When weighing up the pros and cons of opting for a bridging program, you may want to do a comparison of the financial costs.
First, consider the conventional route of study to become an NP—taking the cost of a bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree—and compare it with the costs of a bridging program that skips the BSN and bridges the gaps to give you an MSN. You should notice a substantial difference in both cost and time taken to complete your final MSN degree:
- The cost of a Bachelor of Nursing Science degree (BSN) is approximately $13,800.
- The cost of a Master of Nursing Science degree (MSN) is approximately $36.800.
Your total cost for the above two degrees is around $50,600 and takes up to four years to complete. The cost of an RN to MSN program, however, is less than $40,000, and the course takes approximately three years to complete. Therefore, the total savings if you choose the bridging course option is in the region of $10K.
The conventional RN to BSN to MSN route would take approximately four years to complete, while the RN to MSN bridging route would take around three years to complete, saving you a year which can be used to gain work experience or participate in further study.
Diversity of choice and opportunities for nurse practitioners
When studying for an NP qualification, you can choose from the specialties that your institution has to offer. Once you have your MSN degree, there are further certification courses that offer additional NP specialties, enabling you to achieve qualifications in more than one area of specialization. With one or two years of additional study, you can move into a different area of nursing if you so choose, or you can use the additional qualification to improve your eligibility for new posts within the area in which you work. An example of this would be upgrading your primary care status to that of an acute care nurse, or adding a neo-natal qualification to your women’s health specialization.
One of the more popular specializations is that of family nurse practitioner, as it enables the NP to treat people of all ages experiencing a range of medical conditions and enhances their chances of finding employment in clinical environments. Other options for specialization include psychiatric NP, women’s health NP, neo-natal NP, and adult-gerontology NP.
Qualified nurse practitioners work in hospitals and clinics, homes for the elderly or mentally ill, end-of-life clinics, and rehabilitation centers. Nurse practitioners with additional training in acute care provide valuable services in emergency room settings, neo-natal clinics, and homes for the elderly.
Nurse practitioners can also open their own practice in most states around the US or alternatively work in medical practices in a first-line primary care support position, relieving overworked practitioners of the basic duties so that they can attend to the more complicated cases. NPs play an important role in society as they advocate for improvements within their communities and educate patients and their families about disease prevention, healthy eating habits, and the value of exercise in warding off illness.
NPs sometimes move out of the mainstream and work in non-nursing environments where they can lend their expertise to assist in other ways. An NP can find work in a research institution, using their knowledge to investigate, test, and improve current medical procedures and technologies. A nurse who recognizes a need for certain changes within the clinical environment may decide to change track and become involved in policymaking on medical boards in state or federal legislature environments.
Hospital systems today track patients’ details from admission to discharge, storing all of their historical and current medical data and making the information available to medical staff who need to make decisions around health interventions for their patients. Nurses who discover that they have a strong aptitude for the technical side of their job may decide to move into a role within the information technology sector of medicine, where they can get involved in the implementation and maintenance of systems within their organization or become involved on a larger scale by lending their nursing knowledge to teams of developers who write software for hospitals and clinics.
Nurse practitioners also coordinate multi-disciplinary teams who are attending to a specific patient. Their expertise enables them to identify their patients’ specific needs and set up teams of physicians and therapists to treat their patients.
Work while you learn
As you study, you will find that you can apply your newfound knowledge to your daily nursing duties as you provide care to your patients. In turn, applying your practical knowledge to your studies is conducive to better student outcomes, so it’s a win-win situation.
Working while you study online means that you can maintain a steady income stream, and it also means that your nursing employee benefits, such as medical insurance, remain constant. This is particularly important for nurses with family members who are reliant on medical insurance benefits and on their monthly income.
Something to bear in mind as you juggle your studies, nursing job, and busy home life is to take care of yourself at the same time. Adopting study methods and times that fit in with your lifestyle is important, and something that needs working until you find the perfect balance.
Scholarships and financial aid
By now, you may be wondering how you are going to afford these years of study. Rest assured—there are options available for aid, scholarships, and grants. Here are some of the financing options available to nursing students:
Federal or state aid
The US federal government offers aid for students who are eligible for funding. Whether you already have funds to cover your studies or not, by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, your eligibility for federal, state, or private financial aid will be assessed, and you may discover that there are funds available to you based on your financial situation. Be sure to apply early, as some of the options are limited and work on a first-come, first-served basis.
Scholarships and grants
If you have a good academic record, you may also apply for a nursing scholarship based on your previous grades. Be sure to check the terms of the agreement, as some scholarships require repayment of the loan amount.
Student grants are allocated based on financial needs and sometimes membership in certain organizations. Note that students who have scholarships or grants and do not complete the specified course will more than likely have to repay the full amount of the loan.
Student loans are repayable after the completion of your degree. Check the fine print as sometimes an additional amount of interest is included in the settlement amount.
Federally subsidized loans are granted to undergraduate students and will cover your interest payments while you are still studying. Federally unsubsidized loans are granted to graduates and professional students without the need to submit a financial declaration.
Private loans are made available through banks and credit bureaus, depending on the student’s credit record. Some private loans may also cover living expenses for the duration of the study period.
Statistics and the job market
The job outlook for nurse practitioners is very positive. The employment growth rate is expected to increase between 2022 and 2032 by 9%, according to statistics released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The reported median annual wage for NPs in 2022 was $93,710.
Job creation in homes for the elderly is set to increase as people are living longer thanks to improved technology and advances in pharmacology and healthcare interventions. It doesn’t mean though, that people who live longer are healthy, and the elderly population still suffers from chronic ailments and general frailty. The fact that we have a larger portion of the population who are elderly is now placing medical personnel under pressure. Nurse practitioners are qualified to perform primary care functions and play an important role in creating treatment plans for their elderly patients, supervising dietary requirements, and providing holistic options for patients’ physical and mental well-being.
With the decline in birth rates in many countries around the world, predictions are that there will be fewer university graduates to take up the demand for medical practitioners and specialists in the future. This is where NPs can play a role by alleviating shortages within hospitals and primary care practices.
A bright future awaits
Hard work and years of study culminate in a rewarding career for those who care about people and their health. The diversity of roles that nurses play in society makes the nursing profession one that can be challenging and interesting, and the rewards are many. If you are still undecided about your role in life and you have a kind, caring nature, then delve a little deeper and find out what nursing is all about.