Direct entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs are an excellent opportunity for those who have a non-nursing degree and would like to move into nursing. If you aren’t happy in your current career, these programs give you a chance to work as a nurse and contribute directly to helping others.
Before you make such a significant life change, it is important to know what career opportunities await you.
Today’s nurses have numerous options when it comes to employment. They can work in all fields, from administration to IT to travel nursing. Your job will be determined by what you specialize in. As you consider direct entry MSN programs, take some time to think about where you want to work so that you choose the right specialty.
After you complete a Master of Science in Nursing, you will join the field as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). These are high-level nurses who work with some degree of autonomy and have more responsibility than entry-level nurses.
Finding a job shouldn’t be very hard. There is a shortage of nursing professionals in the United States. Many healthcare institutions experienced high turnover rates in medical staff during the pandemic. America’s aging population and low enrolment numbers in nursing schools have also contributed to the shortage.
Why direct entry MSN programs?
The pandemic forced many people to reassess their career options. 5.7 million Americans have quit their jobs during or following the pandemic, with many looking for a career change, and nursing happens to have excellent prospects for those seeking a fulfilling career helping others.
If you already have a Bachelor’s in another discipline, you can join the medical profession through direct entry MSN programs like those offered at Elmhurst University. These programs take just over two years to complete and offer great career options.
These degrees are designed for those without any nursing experience, so they provide a solid foundation in nursing practices. Many blend online and in-person learning, allowing nurses to get practical experience.
With the right qualifications, there is a good chance that you will find a job soon after you finish your degree.
What jobs are available?
As an MSN graduate, there are numerous jobs that you qualify for. There are several main categories of careers available to degree holders:
- Surgical nurse practitioner
This is a nurse who prepares patients for surgery, and they may also be called upon to assist during surgical procedures. To become a surgical nurse practitioner, you need a nursing degree with an emphasis on surgical science.
After your training, you can get a job in any healthcare institution that performs surgery. You will most likely end up in a large hospital, but you can also work in smaller outfits such as cosmetic surgeries.
- Certified nurse midwife
A certified nurse midwife helps women during pregnancy and childbirth and immediately afterwards. They are often in charge during deliveries, and only call in doctors when there are complications.
If you choose to become a nurse midwife, you should specialize in nursing midwifery. A typical working environment for this type of nurse is a hospital or birthing clinic, although some nurse midwives work with expectant mothers at home.
- General nurse practitioner (GNP)
This is one of the most common specialties. A typical GNP diagnoses and treats the sick. The main difference between this type of nurse and an RN is that they can write prescriptions. They also order and interpret tests.
GNPs are found in all sorts of clinical settings. If you don’t like the idea of working in a hospital, you can look for a job in a clinic, a hospice, or a nursing home.
- Nurse anesthetist
This is a nurse who is an anesthesia expert. Their job is to assist the surgical team with its administration and management during surgery. This type of nursing attracts higher salaries than other specializations.
If you choose to be a nurse anesthetist, you can get a job in a hospital or any healthcare facility that performs surgeries.
- Psychiatric nurse practitioner
This is a type of nurse who works in a mental health facility. They may work in the psychiatry wing of a large hospital, a rehab clinic, a mental health clinic, or a private practice.
Other job opportunities for MSN holders
- Public health nurse
If you are good at leading teams, working with the community, and have experience crafting policy, then you can specialize in public health nursing.
Your job will involve providing community-based healthcare. You may be required to advise politicians and strategists, and you will also be involved every time there is a public health crisis.
Some public health nurses specialize even further, dealing with specific institutions. Those who have a degree in early childhood education, for example, can pursue a job that allows them to work as a nurse within the public school system.
- Clinical research nurse
This is a nurse who works within clinical trials and research studies. They find candidates for research trials, order and evaluate tests, review patient histories, analyze data and write reports.
Clinical research nursing doesn’t put you in direct contact with patients every time, but you get satisfaction from working in the background to find new treatment methods.
- Director of nursing
If you have a lot of managerial experience, you can earn an MSN and become a director of nursing. Your job will be to oversee all nursing operations, ensure compliance, train other nurses, and complete general administrative work.
- Nurse educator
One of the reasons cited for a shortage of nurses in America is a lack of faculty and educators. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there were nearly 1,500 vacancies for faculty in 2020.
If you have a background in education, you can become an educator of nurses at a university. You may be involved in developing and delivering online courses, teaching in-person classes, or both.
Is a direct entry MSN program right for me?
Although it offers exciting career opportunities and a chance to help others, not everyone is cut out for nursing. Before you enroll in a direct-entry nursing course, ask yourself the following questions:
- How easy will it be to get a job where I live?
Although there is a shortage of nurses in America, it doesn’t mean that you will find a job wherever you go. In small communities, for example, you may not find a job as quickly because they have all the nurses they need. If you are willing to relocate, you will have broader job prospects.
- What specialty do I wish to pursue?
Some specialties offer more job opportunities than others. Family nurse practitioners and general practitioners, for example, can work almost anywhere in America.
- Where will I do my clinical rotations?
Clinical rotations are part of direct-entry MSN programs. They allow nurses to gain practical experience. They are important because many nurses accept jobs in the same facility that they complete their rotations in.
You can think of your rotation as a probation period where you allow an employer to see you in action. Are you happy working in the same hospital after you graduate? It will save you the headache of looking for a job.
- What are my expectations?
The reason you are taking a direct-entry nursing program is that your current job doesn’t meet your expectations.
What are your expectations for your nursing career? How much do you hope to earn?
Nursing pays enough to keep you going, but you will not become a millionaire. You will work long shifts and deal with difficult patients. Are you prepared for all that?
- How much will the course cost?
Online degrees tend to be cheaper than in-person degrees but not everyone can afford them. Check if your employer offers any sort of tuition relief and how you can take advantage of it.
- Do I have a support structure in place?
This is especially important for students with young families. A support structure means that someone else can take over while you study.
Choosing direct entry MSN programs
There is no shortage of direct-entry nursing programs in America. How do you choose one? What should you be looking for?
There is no hard and fast answer, but there are certain things that you can expect from any good nursing course:
- It should cover all the necessary modules. These include pathophysiology, pharmacology, research, health assessment, and fundamentals in nursing skills.
- Online nursing courses allow you to work as you study. If you choose to earn your degree online, look for a university that provides you with all the study materials and allows you to contact your trainers when you need clarification.
- You shouldn’t underestimate the challenges of online learning. It has high dropout rates because many students think it’s easy and don’t take the coursework seriously. It is harder to be an online student because you need to manage your time, and that requires a lot of discipline. You must make time every day for a few hours of study, and this is difficult if you have a full-time job and a family.
What soft skills do you need to become a nurse?
Before changing careers, you need to understand the soft skills that are necessary for your new role. Maybe in your previous job you didn’t interact with customers or patients. You may have worked in a small company with few employees.
Now that you are getting into nursing, be prepared to work in a completely different environment. Part of that preparation is honing your soft skills.
Soft skills are all about temperament. They define your personality and character. They include but aren’t limited to:
- Communication – Clarity is important in nursing. Whether you are talking to patients or other nurses and doctors, you should be clear and concise. You should strive to be pleasant at all times.
- Compassion – A compassionate nurse can make a difference in patient recovery.
- Patience – Are you the sort of nurse who is patient with those under your care, or do you make them uncomfortable by rushing them?
- Cooperation and teamwork – Health facilities need the cooperation of all who work within them to function smoothly.
- Honesty – Your patients and colleagues should be able to trust you.
- A strong work ethic – Every medical facility is guided by protocol and laws, but you need to develop a work ethic of your own. A nurse who is honest, conscientious, and ethical is an asset to their employer and patients.
- Decision-making – Your new career will require decisiveness. You will not be very successful in your career if you are the type of person who has a hard time making decisions.
- Attention to detail – Nurses cannot afford to let things fall through the cracks. Whether it is dispensing medication or updating patient charts, a good nurse pays attention to every detail.
Today, a change of career isn’t unusual. People are looking for jobs that they feel are meaningful and that contribute to those around them in one way or another.
If you have decided to become a nurse, direct entry MSN programs are the fastest way to get into the profession.
They don’t require any background in nursing. All you need is a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and some work experience. You also need to have the soft skills necessary for healthy interactions with patients and colleagues.
The course takes about two years, and you can take online classes. These courses are demanding and require plenty of discipline. If you choose the right specialty, you will join the job market in a senior nursing position.