Strategies to Transition to Advanced Nursing

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Registered Nurses (RNs) who have baccalaureate-level degrees and hope to specialize as family nurse practitioners, forensic nurses or nurse educators must pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree to become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). RNs focus on bedside care, teaching patients to manage at-home care and conducting general health screenings. APRNs, in contrast, can run their own medical practices, provide critical links between healthcare and the judicial system and train future generations of nurses.

Nurse and admin meeting

The program of study that allows RNs to transition to MSN degrees builds on the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree studies. MSN degree programs focus on nursing theory and concepts, leadership skills, business acumen, and healthcare policy. Students build skills and competencies by spending time in classrooms, online, and in a clinical setting to concentrate on specialties. Students learn how to thrive in increasingly complex clinical environments.

At the heart of APRN education are MSN programs that boost nursing education to deliver innovative practices, an appreciation for lifelong learning, and changes for improved healthcare outcomes. Students enrolled in Duquesne University’s online MSN program learn the roles of APRNs through the eyes of seasoned professionals who have the practical experience and broad knowledge of various healthcare positions.

“Master’s education prepares nurses for flexible leadership and critical action within complex, changing systems, including health, educational, and organizational systems,” the American College of Nursing said in its “The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing” report.  “Master’s education equips nurses with valuable knowledge and skills to lead change, promote health, and elevate care in various roles and settings.”

In pursuing the transition from BSN-oriented bedside care to APRN care, nursing students learn more than just advanced nursing practice. The best programs allow students to delve into research methods, explore leadership roles, and interact with a range of healthcare providers.

Tips for Transitioning from BSN to MSN

The rapid changes to the healthcare environment across the United States – including the ongoing shortage of APRNs, the aging population, the growing number of chronic diseases and the changes in healthcare management – are compelling BSN-trained nurses to pursue advanced degrees. Programs that bridge the gap to MSN degrees mean graduates can take on advanced roles in all types of healthcare settings.

The following are tips that can make the transition from BSN to MSN easier and more effective:

Learn by watching and doing

– The key to success as an APRN is an education that provides necessary training and experience. Leading MSN programs allow RNs to explore their educational opportunities through classroom, online and clinical experiences. Online MSN programs provide ample opportunities for hands-on, in-person practice as well. At Duquesne University, MSN students complete courses online and clinical hours at locations near their homes.

Focus on leadership

– A primary component of an MSN degree is leadership. APRNs are considered leaders in all healthcare settings because of their advanced education and experience. Nurse practitioners (NPs), for example, are filling the roles of primary healthcare providers. NPs in some states are legally allowed to run health clinics and provide services similar to a family doctor. An American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) study found some patients prefer NPs over physicians because the NPs make patients feel respected and understood.

Develop business acumen

– Medical facilities are not just in the business of making sick people well. They are, in fact, also in the business of treating more patients while driving down costs to deliver better financial outcomes. APRNs are expected to be mindful of the business approach to medicine in addition to clinical outcomes.

Foster relationships

– The role of APRNs is not just to collaborate with other healthcare providers but also to reach out to patients. For forensic nurses, building trust and relationships is the key to success, particularly when assisting assault victims. Forensic nurses must use “advanced communication skills to promote relationships between nurses and patients, provide a context for open discussion of the patient’s experiences, and improve patient outcomes,” the International Association of Forensic Nurses said.

Accept technology as the future

– Technological advances have transformed healthcare in a multitude of ways, including nurse education. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest healthcare philanthropy organization, said technology is expanding virtual learning environments, allowing nurses to “repeat skills-based lessons as often as they need with absolutely no impact on actual patients.” In clinical settings, technology is used in everything from records keeping to patient testing.

Embrace lifelong learning

– APRN education does not just end with a graduation ceremony and a certificate. Working as an APRN requires lifelong education and learning opportunities. APRNs must keep pace with the quick-changing healthcare landscapes, advances in technology and developments in medical research to ensure patient health and well-being.

Transitioning from a BSN degree to an MSN degree also requires support from a leader in nursing education.

Duquesne University’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Duquesne University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program has been lauded as a leader in nurse education and recognized for excellence in online academia. U.S. News and World Report rated the school 26th in the nation as a 2017 Best Online Graduate Nursing Program and among the Top 10 on its Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs for Veterans. The online MSN program builds on BSN degree practices to prepare graduates for advanced positions. Duquesne’s three areas of MSN specialization — Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioner, Forensic Nursing, and Nursing Education and Faculty Role – allow RNs to choose their path.


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “APRNs a “Big Part of the Solution” to the Primary Care Provider Shortage”
Clinical Advisor, “Nurse practitioners outscore physicians in patient satisfaction survey”
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “Technology: Key to Transforming Nursing Education”