What is an accelerated MSN program like?
I’ve received various questions from friends and prospective students asking what a typical week is like in Vanderbilt’s PreSpecialty Program. I remember applying for this program and still feeling like I had no idea what I was in for. I knew it was fast-paced and an accelerated route to my MSN but what exactly that entailed was still a big question mark.
The first year is the accelerated RN portion, while the second year (and third, depending on your specialty) is the “specialty” year, where we really focus on the NP specialty to which we applied. I am pursuing a FNP role, so my second year will focus solely on primary care.
I just completed the RN portion, so I can’t speak to the NP year quite yet. But here’s an extremely simplified, typical week of the program so far…
I map out my week. Every-other-week there is an online quiz in either pathophysiology or pharmacology due. There are discussion posts for various courses and readings that are required before lecture. We also have two exams every other weeks or so as well. In total, we had 24 exams from August to June.
8am class. Usually our pathophysiology course, where we learn about the various disease processes that occur throughout the lifespan. We start at 8:10am sharp and it’s fast-paced note-taking while a lecturer (typically an expert on the topic we are covering) cruises through a 50-75 page PowerPoint.
11am lunch break… we are back at 12:10pm for our evidence-based practice (EBP)/ leadership course, which goes until 1:30pm.
1:30pm we have seminar for EBP, where we break up into smaller groups to have a discussion about the lecture and work through case studies. Seminar is usually out by 3:00, latest.
8am class again, same pathophysiology course. This time it is followed by a pharmacology course from 12:10-2pm.
After pharmacology, many of us have home visits to attend. We have all been assigned a pediatric client with asthma or an adult client with diabetes to visit at home and provide care to. These home visits are anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour away from Nashville.
On Wednesdays I had community health (CH) (some students have CH on Friday and hospital clinical on Wednesday instead). For CH, we meet for 4-5 hours to map out and implement a plan for our designated health site. Sites range from schools to women’s safe houses, veterans homes, nursing homes, and homeless shelters.
I applied for a special placement to go abroad, so my clinical site was in Ghana. I met with graduate students from Vanderbilt’s business school and we provided business consulting for a global health nonprofit. Over spring break in March, we traveled to our “clinical site” in Ghana and met with our client to implement our project.
12-hour shift at the hospital, 6am-6pm. We are assigned one to two patients for the day and we provide total care in conjunction with the patient’s assigned nurse. We do everything from bed baths to administering medications, starting IV’s, blood draws, inserting nasogastric tubes and Foley catheters. This day completely wipes us out… But this is also where we are able to put our newly acquired knowledge and skills to use and get hands-on clinical experience. The 4-5 peers who we spend this time with become family. We share some intense, intimate situations with one another and overcome some of the most challenging, vulnerable experiences of our career.
For many of us, this is the most time we have ever spent with acutely ill patients. We encounter loss, grief, and miracles all in the same shift. For me, clinical has been an enriching experience that has strengthened my emotional competence. Each shift overwhelms me with humility and growing confidence, reminding me how gratifying caring for others can be.
In total, we will complete 700 clinical hours within the first year.
8am conference. This is a 4-hour session dedicated to working through our previous day in the hospital. We present our patient(s) and our nursing diagnoses to our clinical group and faculty. We also reflect on any emotional events we encountered and try to digest this as a group. This conference is vital in facilitating our progression through the year and allows us to confront any insecurities, emotional speed-bumps, and confusion that arises in the clinical setting.
There is ALWAYS homework on the weekends. Quizzes, online discussions, and term papers are all due throughout the semester. Not to mention an exam or clinical skills check-off is always on the horizon. In total, I tallied up 35 hours of on-site or in-classroom time per week, not counting homework and independent study time.
Currently… Tuesday, June 27th
As I write this, I am 5 hours and 45 minutes out of my very. last. exam. for my entire pre-specialty year. I will not have another lecture or any assigned homework until late August. However, tomorrow (Wednesday) I have 5 hours of orientation at the hospital, followed by another 5 hours on Thursday. Friday we have a 12-hour shift. The first 3 weeks in July will be spent working back-to-back 12-hour shifts for 3 days in a row, followed by a 4-hour conference day and then a 3-day weekend. At the very end of July we have a comprehensive review for 8 hours a day Friday, Saturday, Sunday and then we will take an “exit exam”, which will be cumulative on the entire first year’s content. In August I will sit to take the NCLEX-RN licensure exam on my own time, once I feel ready. August 22nd I will begin my FNP courses and will enter the second and final year of the program.
Phew!! I’m tired just thinking about it…
All in all it’s been one of the best years of my entire life. My perspective and approach to life, death, health, and wellness have evolved immensely and I feel more passionately about being a NP than ever before. Vanderbilt’s program is phenomenal, our faculty and instructors have inspired me in ways I didn’t know possible. I am very lucky to obtain my education from one of the top schools in the nation. Nursing is a very rewarding career choice, all the hard work is 100% worth it!
Check out my other posts below on nursing and applying to accelerated programs!