Accelerated MSN programs are a wonderful solution to the shortage of healthcare providers the US is currently experiencing. These programs are geared toward career-changing individuals with a bachelors degree in another field. Ideal candidates posses extensive work experience, strong work ethic, and a mature approach to commitment and responsibility. These specialized programs are offered at some of the most prestigious Universities in the nation (Yale, Vanderbilt, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, to name a few). They have proven to be respected by employers and efficient in adequately training non-nurses to enter the field as advanced practice nurses (APN).
While researching accelerated MSN programs, you may come across negative opinions and false information regarding the quality of this career track, just like I did. I want to address these concerns and provide some facts on the matter.
(All information is my opinion or information I have gathered from the AACN and studies done on this subject.)
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ACCELERATED NP PROGRAMS
“NP’s with no RN experience will struggle to find a job.”
This misconception assumes that those lacking RN experience will not be successful in the job search and that employers will favor individuals with RN experience.
My Reply: This may be true in some circumstances. Just as employers may not hire individuals for other various reasons, I am sure there are employers out there who will value the additional years of experience as an RN. If the hiring NP has RN experience, for example, he or she may favor the candidate who took the similar track. However, this is not a known fact that NPs lacking RN experience have longer unemployment periods.
The Facts: As a student in Vanderbilt University’s Prespecialty MSN program, I know that graduates of this program have phenomenal outcomes. According to the AANC, “Employers rated Vanderbilt’s MSN graduates who did not have a nursing background equally high in terms of level of preparation for APN positions as those who entered with a BSN degree”. The AACN also points out that “Graduates of accelerated programs are prized by nurse employers who value the many layers of skill and education these graduates bring to the workplace.”
The takeaway: Employers have been shown to value graduates of accelerated programs due to the increased maturity level, strong clinical skills, and overall quality work ethic in the workplace.
“Graduates of accelerated programs will not be competent in clinical practice.”
This statement insists that bedside nursing is the key to a successful and confident NP.
My reply: This is just simply false. Yes, it helps to have RN experience. Yes, the NP role requires bedside manner. And yes, ANY previous healthcare experience serves as an advantage in clinical practice. But previous RN experience is not required for success. In reality, all graduates of NP programs lack confidence at the beginning of their career. This is only natural. This has also been found to be true of physician assistants, who also lack RN experience. So why is there almost zero scrutiny over whether PA’s are fit to practice without previous experience? NP’s have more autonomy than their PA counterparts depending on what state they practice in, but the clinical roles of the two are almost identical.
The Facts: Studies have shown that graduates from all educational programs lacked confidence in their clinical skills – this is not unique to accelerated programs. In fact, The Research College of Nursing has tracked students through their careers and found that “accelerated students move into management positions more quickly and generally excel in their roles.” That sounds like confidence and success to me!
SO WHY DO ACCELERATED PROGRAMS FACE CONTROVERSY AT ALL?
From my experience in the hospital setting, the push-back on accelerated NP programs generally comes from RNs. To me, this opposition reflects resentment that students are able to bypass the RN role and take a fast-track to being a provider. I’m sure it feels a bit like leap-frog, which doesn’t seem fair. But it’s not about fairness, it’s about patient health and wellbeing. This push-back would be legitimized if patient care was suffering, but it isn’t. Graduates of accelerated programs provide exceptional care and have proven to be an asset in the healthcare field.
Rarely have I heard any opposition of this career track from physicians or fellow NPs.
What is necessary to be a competent nurse practitioner is compassion, work ethic, the ability to think critically, and a desire to help others.
These traits cannot be taught in school, my friends. These are innate qualities that are strengthened through life experience. The provider role involves writing orders, making diagnostic decisions, and creating plans of care for patients. This is a completely different role than bedside nursing. It’s apples and oranges, really.
If accelerated MSN programs were not successful in preparing NP’s for practice then they wouldn’t exist. They also would not be offered by some of the most prestigious and renowned universities in the nation.
My advice: Please please please do not let negative opinions deter you from pursuing this wonderful career track. What a shame for the world to never receive your compassion and drive to help others due to a few misconceptions and falsehoods.
As a nurse, we have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul, and body of our patients, their families, and ourselves. They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou