Choosing the right MSN program for YOUR nursing career goals

Are you looking for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program? Here are some things you'll want to consider.

If you are thinking about getting your MSN degree, it is important to choose a program that will meet your nursing career and professional development needs. With so many choices, investigating different programs can be confusing and time-consuming. So, which MSN program is right for you? The following pointers can help you decide.

On Campus, Online or a Hybrid Approach? Location may be a factor!

Which schools offer MSN programs in your field of interest and geographic area?
What specialty area of nursing do you want to pursue? Is a program available in your local area? If not, are you willing to travel? If so, how far? Is relocating an option? Should you consider a completely online MSN degree?

Look beyond your alma mater. 
Attending a different graduate school than your undergraduate college can allow for different professors, teaching styles, and perspectives in nursing.

Compare classes and schedules. 
When are classes offered? Are the days and times convenient for you? Is there any flexibility in the schedule, or the option to take some classes online?

Go to the campus and look around. 
Do you like what you see? Does it seem like a good environment in which to learn and to study?

*All of the DeSales University's MSN tracks are offered in hybrid format. The MSN/MBA can be obtained completely online, in the classroom or hybrid - your choice!

​Completely online? Quality and experience are the factors!

What is the typical class size?
What is the student : faculty ration? 1 : 15 is the average size that does not compromise quality. If teaching assistants are used for online courses, is a reasonable ratio maintained?

Do the online course faculty have experience teaching in the online environment?
Teaching an online class is very different from teaching in a classroom. Make sure the faculty use a variety of instructional technologies to support pedagogically-sound delivery of course content.

Do online students have access to support services?
Technical support, library access and other support services are critical to a quality education at the graduate level.

*DeSales University provides extensive computing and information technology resources and services, as well as universal access for all students, faculty, and administrators in all of its campuses. Students at DeSales will have access to a plethora of library resources both on campus and remotely. The University Distance Education and Instructional Technology Department offers a variety of resources for students in online and hybrid courses for instructional delivery as well as support in using those technologies.

Not all MSN degrees are created equal

What is the value of a MSN degree from each university?
Talk to current and former students - ask questions. What did they like or dislike about their academic experience? Ask them about their experience with support services that might be important to you and about their post-graduation employment search.

Cheaper is not always better. 
Consider the tuition costs in relation to added earning potential. Take time to investigate financial aid sources, as well as tuition support that might be available through the school. Be wary of hidden costs or fees that may increase the overall cost of program completion.

Choose a program that suits your goals. 
Do not choose a program based on convenience or cost. The wrong program can result in several years of wasted time, effort, and money – and might not produce the results you were expecting!

Verify that the school is accredited.
Accreditation ensures the program has met the quality standards for nursing education. MSN programs should be accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing and Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

*The baccalaureate degree in nursing, master's degree in nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice program and post-graduate APRN certificate programs at DeSales University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/ccne-accreditation). 

What are the MSN programs' certification exam pass-rates?
This can be used as a measure of how well the school is preparing its graduates. Ask the schools you are interested in to provide this information for the past five (5) years.

*DeSales University boasts a 100% pass rate for all nurse practitioner programs since 1999.

Special considerations for advanced practice degrees

Does the program incorporate simulation and standardized patients as part of the curriculum?
Simulation is widely recognized as a means to reduce future errors, foster interdisciplinary practice and contribute to a quality education.

DeSales University has the premier health care simulation facilities in the region, using both hi-fidelity human patient simulators and standardized patients, as well as the only human anatomy (cadaver) lab in the region - see for yourself - www.desales.edu/home/academics/simulation-lab

Does the program meet standards for supervised clinical hours? 
Talk to current students or recent graduates to get a feel for the types and variety of available practice sites.

Does the program provide clinical placement services or must students secure their own placement sites?
Quality clinical placements and preceptors are the backbone of a solid advanced practice education. Look for a school that provides the placements and requires that faculty perform site visits as part of the evaluation process.

*DeSales University employs a Clinical Liaison who is responsible for obtaining all clinical placements. Clinical preceptors must pass a review of credentials prior to working with our students. Each clinical site is visited by a faculty member at least once per semester.

Are the faculty credentialed in advanced practice?
Make sure that advanced practice faculty (NP, CNS, etc.) are credentialed and certified in the specialty in which they teach.

* DeSales University advanced practice faculty are all credentialed, certified, and possess the doctoral degree.

Do the faculty maintain an active clinical practice?
This might be found on the school's website. If not, it's an important question to ask during the application process. You want to be sure these faculty are clinically current and up to date on the most recent healthcare literature and guidelines.

*DeSales University advanced practice faculty are clinically active in outpatient, community, clinic, skilled nursing facilities and hospital sites.

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