shutterstock 361337135The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates that open positions within the nursing field will continue to grow over the next 20 years, so more colleges and universities have started looking for alternative ways to attract and educate prospective students.

Nursing Shortage

The nursing shortage in the US is expected to grow because of several factors. Currently, there are greater than one million RNs that will reach retirement age within the next 10 to 15 years, and this is because the population of working nurses includes a large group (over 50%) that is over the age of fifty. As these nurses age, so does the general population within the United States. In May 2014, the US Census Bureau reported that by the year 2050, the number of US residents 65 years of age and over would be 83.7 million. This is almost double the amount that was previously projected in 2012. As these individuals mature, they will require more health care and require long-term care for chronic medical conditions. More skilled nurses will be necessary to help care for these older individuals.

Direct Entry MSN Programs

For more than twenty years, nursing schools across this country have actively explored new ways to increase student volume and attract new students. This being done to alleviate this predicted nursing shortage in the coming years. According to the US Department of Labor,  the employment opportunities for registered nurses is projected to grow 12 percent between 2018 to 2028.

One of the more innovative ways that colleges and universities are approaching nursing education is through a direct entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program. These MS degree programs are designed specifically for students with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. In other words, a degree in an area other than nursing. These programs are also referred to as “accelerated” or “entry-level”.

The interest in this type of program has been gaining momentum nationwide, and they can be a great benefit for students that have an interest in becoming a nurse but do not want to take the time (or spend the money) to obtain another bachelor’s degree. Many of the schools that offer this type of program require that applicants have the following:

  • A BS from an accredited college or university
  • A GPA of at least 2.75
  • Specific prerequisite courses before entry
  • Clean criminal record (background checks are required)

These programs are somewhat competitive for applicant acceptance, and once accepted, the programs are at an accelerated pace when compared to most traditional nursing education programs. Students typically have completed all of their required general courses before entry. Therefore,  the remaining classes are related to the requirements to be eligible to take the NCLEX and graduate with the necessary credentials to be considered an advanced practice nurse. Many of these programs are two years in length and may require a summer session to complete all of the coursework.

An MSN opens up the door to a wide assortment of exciting nursing positions and career opportunities for those aspiring to work in the ever-growing healthcare industry. Depending on the program’s offerings, students may focus their efforts on a specialty within nursing. This might include specialties such as Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP), Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM), and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). Each college or university has requirements for entry and program completion, so it is necessary to do some research to which is the best option to meet all of your needs.

Direct Entry Nurse Practitioner Programs

As mentioned previously, there will be a greater need in the future for nurses in general. This is especially true when it comes to nurse practitioners. Currently, there are not enough general practitioners across the nation to care for the future demand of our growing population. This is where CNPs can be exceptionally well-positioned to help.

Fortunately, for those interested in pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner, there are exceptional opportunities for employment and schools that are equipped to train future CNPs. One option is a direct entry program for non-nursing graduates. Just as described above, these direct entry nurse practitioners program allow individuals who hold bachelor’s degrees in a major other than nursing to jump directly into an NP Master’s program.

There are direct entry programs that require their applicants to already hold an RN license; however, many others do not. This makes a program of this type an extremely attractive track for those individuals with a strong academic background or dedicated professionals interested in make a career change. A direct entry NP program allows students to obtain their license as an RN, as well as meeting the credentialed requirements as a nurse practitioner.

Direct Entry Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs

There are even some colleges and universities throughout the US that offer a direct entry Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. These programs, however, as far less common than those for obtaining an MSN. These programs are open to students with bachelor’s degrees in fields other than nursing and offer an exceptional educational opportunity that prepares them to succeed as an advanced practice leader in their chosen area of specialty.

As you can imagine, these programs are highly competitive for enrollment and academically rigorous. Many require intensive full-time, year-round study during the first eighteen months, to prepare the student to take the NCLEX exam and become a licensed RN. Once this portion is complete, the student continues to meet the requirements for graduation which typically takes another 3-3 1/2 years. During this portion of the program, students must earn the necessary course credits, complete a minimum number of clinical hours, as well as a culminating project to be awarded the DNP.

The advantage of these direct entry programs is that applicants can hold a bachelor’s degree in any area of study as long as achieved at an accredited college or university. Students entering into these types of programs earn a BSN and MSN in about the same amount of time that it typically takes to complete a bachelor’s program, and those with some experience in the medical field can often graduate in as little as 3-4 years while studying on a part-time basis.

A significant advantage is that many of the existing direct entry MSN and DNP programs often cost less than it would amount to if a student paid to earn their BSN and MSN separately. For individuals interested in direct entry nurse practitioner programs, there are online options as well that can benefit working medical professionals. These programs give students the option to complete a portion of the required course online and may allow students to complete the necessary clinical hours at their current location.  As you can see, there are different ways that you can get your MSN or DNP with having a BSN, and there are various programs throughout the country that can help you achieve this goal.

Tracy Everhart

Master of Science (M.S.), Complementary Alternative Medicine| American College of Healthcare Sciences

Master of Science (M.S.), Nursing| Yale University

Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Microbiology| Hampshire College

November 2019

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