A bridge MSN program, also known as an RN-MSN program, offers career pathways for nurses interested in advanced nursing. Bridge programs are designed to be convenient, offering a streamlined path to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. This program is specifically for RNs who do not yet hold a bachelor's in nursing.
In this blog, we'll answer commonly asked questions and discuss what makes Spring Arbor University's bridge MSN program unique.
What is a Bridge MSN Program?
The online bridge MSN program at Spring Arbor is for registered nurses who have earned either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and are interested in working towards their MSN degree.
Nurses who pursue the bridge MSN program will earn their BSN along the way. To get the best experience as an online student in any bridge MSN program, you must be goal-driven and committed to the trajectory of your career early on.
Not all programs are the same. Those in Spring Arbor's bridge MSN program will find it flexible, allowing them to continue working full-time as they complete online coursework.
How Do I Apply to a Bridge MSN?
A bridge MSN program is a fast-track to earn a BSN and MSN degree, preparing you for advanced nursing roles. Those interested in the online bridge MSN program at Spring Arbor must have the following to apply:
- An associate degree or diploma from a CCNE- or NLN-accredited school
- 60 transferable semester hours with a minimum 3.0 GPA
- An unrestricted, unencumbered and current nursing license
- Two recommendation letters and a two-page goal statement
In addition to completing online coursework, RN-MSN students must also meet clinical requirements, such as completing 200 clinical hours of hands-on experience in their specialization.
What Bridge MSN Concentrations Are Available?
The bridge MSN program at Spring Arbor offers three nursing concentrations, listed below. Each focus aligns with in-demand career opportunities in healthcare.
The RN-MSN-NP concentration is for RNs who want to become a nurse practitioner.
Spring Arbor offers two primary care specializations within the NP track, including family nurse practitioner or adult-gerontology nurse practitioner. Both pathways provide entry into rewarding roles, offering more career balance and autonomy.
Students will build knowledge of advanced nursing concepts, develop clinical competence, and learn how to leverage the healthcare system within the NP role to advocate for patients.
NP students will gain the necessary clinical skills to serve specific populations within the primary care setting, ranging from routine check-ups to treating illnesses and conditions.
This bridge MSN program's concentration is focused on nursing education.
Students who set forth on this path can expect to learn the skills to become nurse educators or clinical supervisors. RN-MSN-Ed. graduates work in various settings, such as universities or clinical environments.
Students will learn how to develop lesson plans, teach courses, and oversee clinical practices. They are prepared to address real-life challenges in the healthcare field and graduate with a broad understanding of nursing education.
Aspiring nurse educators will also learn the foundations of assessment in pharmacology and pathophysiology.
Students who pursue the RN-MSN/MBA dual degree program pursue three degrees: the BSN, the MSN, and the MBA.
These candidates have a desire to land executive leadership positions in healthcare. Students enrolled in this bridge MSN add business knowledge to their skill set, preparing them for top-tier management or healthcare administration roles.
RN-MSN/MBA students learn many clinical and business functions, including how to oversee clinical operations, strategize ways to expand and improve services within healthcare systems, and establish policies and procedures to improve efficiency.
Students become versed in best practices within a clinical and business framework.
Top 4 Benefits of a Bridge MSN Program
Most RNs are realistic about the challenges that come with nursing, yet still, feel passionate about their role in improving their patients' health and well-being.
Prospective students taking the bridge MSN program are typically social individuals who enjoy working with people and are inspired to take the next step in their careers. Most RNs don't just see their work as a career path; they view nursing as a calling.
Earning an MSN will not only open the door to future opportunities, but it will also allow you to channel your passion in an advanced role. For those interested in a bridge MSN program, consider these top benefits:
1. Build a Leadership Mindset
The bridge MSN program curriculum aims to close the gap between being a team member and being a team leader in nursing. During the program, RNs cultivate leadership skills enabling them to have more professional autonomy and direct influence over workplace outcomes.
Nurse leaders are in great demand these days. In an article by the Institute of Medicine, researchers said,
"Strong leadership is critical if the vision of a transformed health care system is to be realized. Yet not all nurses begin their career with thoughts of becoming a leader. The nursing profession must produce leaders throughout the healthcare system, from the bedside to the boardroom, who can serve as full partners with other health professionals and be accountable for their contributions to delivering high-quality care while working collaboratively with leaders from other health professions."
The bridge MSN program teaches RNs to do just that— lead from the bedside to the boardroom, as they learn how to:
- Engage in moral and ethical decision-making skills in the context of healthcare and nursing practices
- Use highly researched conceptual theories to improve applied nursing practices
- Understand socialization, collaboration and the value of interdisciplinary partnerships in healthcare
- Engage with healthcare policy development, media management, pursuing grants and evaluating healthcare products and services benefiting the practice
2. Gain Advanced Nursing Competencies
A bridge MSN program sheds light on many interesting, complex topics such as pharmacology, pathophysiology, patient assessments, treatment methods, and applied research to develop essential competencies.
Skilled nurses deliver their patients compassionate, personalized, and high-quality care. They can also work to make sustainable changes in the U.S. healthcare system, adding transformative value to the current climate.
The bridge MSN program provides nurses with the following advanced capacities:
- Essential knowledge to deliver extensive patient assessments
- The ability to interpret diagnoses and treatments, as well as analyze a patient's response to treatment
- Being able to refine and improve nursing practices according to new research
- Understanding pathophysiological mechanisms related to patients' health and disease processes
- Ability to conduct research and understand methodologies, data collection, and analytics
- Assess, diagnose, and manage various medicines through advanced pharmacological interventions and therapeutic modalities
3. Administer Population-Specific Care
Populations have unique needs depending on considerations such as life stage, culture, physical, psychosocial, and cognitive abilities. The term "population-specific care" perceives healthcare from a macro perspective.
According to this concept, a variety of conditions interact at a macro-level to affect specific populations' health. Also argued is the idea that macro-level determinants of health can be more impactful than individual lifestyle choices.
An article of the journal of the Institute of Medicine entitled "The Future of the Public's Health in the 21st Century," includes a discussion of the effect on population health of various factors including:
- Social, economic, cultural and environmental factors like working conditions and housing
- Proximate determinants of health both behavioral and biological
- Macro-level determinants like policies and societal norms
- Micro-level determinants like sex or the virulence of a disease agent
If populations have different health needs based on circumstances, they should have comparable healthcare practices. Students undertaking a bridge MSN program will be educated on an updated healthcare perspective and learn how to engage in the following:
- Apply culturally appropriate communication skills
- Adapt to an individual's cognitive, developmental, physical, mental and behavioral health needs
- Use treatment plans to care for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, individuals with chronic health conditions and other compromised patients
- Adapt nursing practices to meet population-specific needs
The bridge MSN program is valuable because it educates nursing students on administering personalized care that is informed by a population-specific model.
4. Foster a Spirit of Service
A career in nursing is a path of service requiring empathy, selflessness, and dedication. A comprehensive bridge MSN program teaches the spirit of service alongside other concepts.
The RN-MSN program at Spring Arbor University is a unique curriculum that frames nursing practices within a Christian worldview. Students learn to embody a compassionate style of nursing through the following:
- Understand morality and ethics in the context of healthcare and nursing practices
- Learn to practice nursing through a Christian worldview
- Achieve professional responsibility and an understanding of policy issues in healthcare
- Promote the development of dignity, respect and justice in healthcare
- Empower yourself and others to advocate for the healthcare needs of vulnerable or underrepresented populations
A bridge MSN program that is rooted in ethical teachings equips students to examine their actions and focus on the needs of others.
Careers After a Bridge MSN
After graduating from a bridge MSN program, nurses will enjoy ample leadership opportunities in their field. In the section below, we'll review common pathways for nurses who graduate from Spring Arbor's online bridge MSN programs and dive into career outlook for the three MSN tracks.
Ranked #4 in Best Healthcare Jobs by US News and World Report, the nurse practitioner's role offers nurses the opportunity to introduce balance in their careers while delivering quality patient care.
A nurse practitioner uses clinical knowledge to assess and treat various medical conditions and diseases. Over 89% of NPs specialize in primary care. In addition to interacting with patients, NPs collaborate with physicians to treat more advanced illnesses and injuries.
Typically, NPs will perform the following responsibilities:
- Perform patient screenings and examinations
- Ensure the accuracy of patient records and regularly update information
- Analyze data and make informed decisions about follow-up treatment plans
- Communicate with patients by answering questions, providing guidance and delivering compassionate care
NPs will find no shortage of opportunities in the US. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for NPs through 2028 is growing well above average at 26%.
NPs play an essential role in preventative care and help bridge gaps felt by the primary care provider shortage. As our country's population ages, the need for NPs who can administer quality patient care will continue to grow.
NPs can also work in diverse settings ranging from clinics to schools to hospitals. This variety also adds flexibility to the career.
Salary is mainly dependent on education, location, and experience. Consider an associate's-level RN who decides to earn a bachelor's degree—her salary might be around $64,445 per year. However, if that same RN pursued a bridge MSN program to become a nurse practitioner and graduated, salary potential would likely increase to $115,800 annually.
Throughout the U.S., NPs enjoy rewarding salaries, with some of the top areas (e.g., Massachusetts, California) paying over $150,000 per year.
It's understandable that as the demand for NPs increases, so does the need for nurse educators. Professionals working as clinical educators can also branch out into other roles and work as education directors. These positions require professionals to lead presentations, training programs and clinical education.
The role of a nurse educator is to spread knowledge to shape the next generation of nurses. Nurse educator roles vary across facilities and can take place in a classroom or the field, but generally involve the following:
- Build relevant education and training programs
- Educate nurses, clinicians, insurance personnel, public healthcare workers or patients
- Lead presentations and training modules
- Administer ongoing education to keep staff up-to-date
The employment outlook for nursing instructors and teachers is much brighter than the national average, with a 35% growth expected until 2022. The top-employing industries for nurse educators include:
- Colleges and universities
- Technical/trade schools
- General medical and surgical hospitals
A nurse educator can expect to earn as much as $101,000 a year. This salary is dependent on factors such as location, experience level, and skills.
For example, nurse educators with experience in the area of surgery will see a 17% increase in annual salary compared to other specialties.
The top locations to work as a clinical or nurse educator are Chicago (8% more than the national average) and Atlanta (6% more than the national average).
Those with interest in healthcare management will find opportunities in hospitals, clinics, or private healthcare facilities. Career paths include roles as a healthcare administrator, nursing home administrator, healthcare consultant, and more.
The responsibilities of a healthcare administrator vary based on the facility of employment; however, most jobs involve the following:
- Leading the business growth and service delivery of the facility
- Overseeing clinical and non-clinical staff through hiring, training, management and performance reviews
- Driving marketing efforts such as business planning, marketing tactics and strategy around revenue growth
- Managing financials such as budget management and reporting
The career outlook for healthcare administration is bright. According to BLS, job growth is projected to increase by 18% through 2028. In today's rapidly changing healthcare climate, executive leadership and management roles are essential for helping facilities accommodate growing industry demands.
Skilled healthcare administrators can expect to earn a salary similar to nurse practitioners and nurse educators—over $100,000 annually. However, wages in this role have a vast range based on tiers of management. For instance, those who land c-suite positions will see much higher earning potential, around $200,000 or more.
The pay for healthcare administrators varies by location, with the highest salaries in cities like Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles.
A Student-Centric Bridge MSN
For online learners, the student experience is essential when considering a bridge MSN program. At Spring Arbor, our nursing students are central to our focus.
Each track in the online RN-MSN program is tailored to working nurses so that students can balance their needs.
Uniquely Designed for Working Nurses
Spring Arbor's online RN-MSN program allows working nurses to take one seven-week course at a time and enjoy a week off in between. Students enjoy flexibility from the start when they choose from one of six intakes a year.
Amber Fox, an MSN-FNP graduate, reflects on her student experience:
"[SAU's] online classes have been beneficial for me because I have been able to continue working as I normally do, and do my reading and assignments at night after the children go to sleep. I was also able to plan a wedding, go on a honeymoon, and have a baby during this whole process. EVERY single teacher and advisor was supportive and willing to help in any way. They walk with you step by step during the program to make sure you succeed in every aspect of life and your future career."
We believe the right combination of structure and support will help our nursing students thrive during their courses at Spring Arbor—and in their careers.
Inspiring Outcomes—A Close Community
Ranked among America's Best Colleges by US News and World Report, online students can expect high academic standards at Spring Arbor. Nurses who join our RN-MSN program are a part of a tradition of excellence and show above-average pass rates on national board exams.
Additionally, Spring Arbor's small class sizes and caring faculty offer personalized attention. You'll be a part of a close community and receive support during your program from start to finish.
As an RN-MSN student, you can also expect to grow holistically through a faith-based educational philosophy that promotes servant-leadership.
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