Online MSN

What to Expect While Pursuing an MSN at Spring Arbor University

So you’re interested in furthering your education and becoming a nurse practitioner, but you don’t know what to expect from a master’s degree program (also referred to as MSN, MS or Master of Science in Nursing degree).

In general, an MSN program will build on your baccalaureate or entry-level nursing practice and prepare you to participate in a higher level of nursing practice and leadership within a wide range of settings. Master’s degree-prepared nurses are in high demand as nurse practitioners, so pursuing an MSN-Nurse Practitioner program can greatly benefit your nursing career.

Let’s look at some things you can expect from any MSN program.

Learning How to Balance School/Work/Home Life

If you choose to pursue higher education, be prepared to accept that your MSN-Nurse Practitioner program will be a major part of your life. Nursing school is rigorous and time consuming, but don’t let that scare you. Many students before you have successfully maintained a school-work-life balance.

Full-time master’s programs typically consist of 18 to24 months of uninterrupted study. What if you have to work? No worries. Many graduate school students choose to fit their master’s-level studies around their work schedules and take longer to complete their program. In general, expect to commit 2 to3 years toward completing a master’s’ degree.

Before returning to school, it’s important to make sure you’re ready to undertake the commitment required to complete a master’s program. It’s essential you don’t “burn-out” before you’ve finished your degree. Getting supports in place prior to beginning a program can help. For example, Spring Arbor University’s online MSN-NP program based in Spring Arbor, Michigan, offers support in the form of available faculty, an interactive learning environment and a Student Success Coach who works with you throughout each step of the program. You can also prepare yourself by practicing limit setting and time management.Self-care practices can also assist you in successfully navigating a master’s-level education.

Coursework in General Competencies and Specialization

Master’s-level study includes both general and specialized coursework. Graduates must possess a mastery level of understanding in nursing theory, science and practice. All master’s degree programs that prepare graduates for the nurse practitioner role are required to have graduate level coursework that builds upon an undergraduate foundation in physiology/pathophysiology, health assessment, and pharmacology.

As an MSN degree student at Spring Arbor University, you can select a study track that focuses on nursing in a specialized area of care, such as gerontology or family practice. You will complete classes focused on this specialization, in addition to your generalized coursework. Focused and sustained clinical experiences will allow you to develop mastery of assessment, intervention and patient care delivery skills. These experiences provide an opportunity for you to focus on both a population of interest and a specific role.

A Relationship with a Clinical Preceptor

In Spring Arbor’s online MSN-Nurse Practitioner program, students are exposed to a workplace environment representative of their chosen area of specialization. This hands-on experience provides graduate students with the opportunity to put their knowledge of advanced theory into practice. In this venue, students can experiment and gain proficiency in newly acquired knowledge and skills.

Graduate clinical preceptors play a key role in this area of graduate nursing education. They utilize their expertise and clinical acumen to guide and direct students as they learn their clinical roles. As a master’s level student, your work with a clinical preceptor will synthesize program content and enhance your access to patients, clinical skill development, socialization and professional transition into the role of nurse practitioner.

Practicing Interprofessional Teamwork

The U.S. health care system has been placing greater emphasis on cooperation, communication and collaboration between healthcare disciplines in an effort to ensure that care is continuous and reliable. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has included interprofessional collaboration as one of its “Essentials” for master’s education for advanced practice.

The key to interprofessional collaboration is being a good team player, with the end goal being the provision of safe, patient-centered care. In preparation for this transformation, graduate programs have standardized  providing opportunities for nursing students to engage in interactive learning with those outside their profession.

As a master’s-level graduate, you will be expected to demonstrate leadership skills by using mutually respectful communication and collaboration within interprofessional teams, as well as exhibiting skills in care coordination, delegation and conflict resolution — all of which are central to the notion of interprofessional teamwork.

Options for Completing Classwork

Today’s MSN students have a variety of options available to them. Programs can be completed on campus, online or a combination of both. Master’s programs include both clinical and didactic learning experiences. Students spend more time participating in seminars and roundtable discussions than they do listening to lectures and taking notes.

Although online learning is slightly different than learning in a classroom, the core features of both types of MSN degrees are the same. At Spring Arbor University based in Michigan, you can expect a curriculum that challenges you to think in new ways and encourages you expand your knowledge base. Online programs provide a strong collaborative atmosphere, just like campus programs, but do so through instant messaging, chats, email correspondence, message boards and more.When you choose to pursue an online MSN, you can expect coursework that can be completed whenever and wherever you are most comfortable making it easier to balance work and family obligations.

No matter what type of MSN focus you choose, it’s important that you prepare yourself for the challenges and rewards awaiting you. Spring Arbor University wants to help you find a program that fits your needs. Call us to talk about your specific career path today.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2011). The essentials of a master’s education in nursing. Retrieved from

American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2017). Degree completion programs for registered nurses: RN to master’s degree and RN to baccalaureate programs [Fact Sheet]. Retrieved from

Boertje, J., and Ferron, L. (2013). Achieving a work-life balance. American Nurse Today, 8(11). Retrieved from

Donley, R., Flaherty, M., Sarsfield, E., Burkhard, A., O’Brien, S., and Anderson, K., (2014). Graduate clinical nurse preceptors: Implications for improved intra-professional collaboration.  The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 19(3). doi: 10.3912/OJIN.Vol19No03PPT01. Retrieved from

Dracup, K. (n.d.). Master’s Nursing Programs. Retrieved on July 24, 2017 from The American Association of Colleges of Nursing website at

Interprofessional Education Collaborative Expert Panel (2011). Core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice: Report of an expert panel. Washington, D.C.: Interprofessional Education Collaborative. Retrieved from

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About SAU Online

Since 1873, Spring Arbor University has helped students pursue wisdom by offering an education grounded in the Christian faith. What began as a small elementary and secondary school in the late 1800s has evolved into a premier private Christian university that offers engaging online programs designed to meet the unique needs of busy, working adults. While we’re not the only university to offer online degree programs, our distinction lies in our total commitment to providing educational excellence within a Christ-honoring and supportive online community.

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