Online MSN Programs: The Hybrid Model for Advanced Nursing Education

As technology continues to advance, nurses today have more options than ever before when it comes to higher education. The Internet has become an integral part of the training and development of healthcare professionals. This is especially good news for nurses interested in graduate study. Completing an MSN degree is now easily accessible as more and more colleges and universities enter the online arena. Many nurses wish to advance their careers but need a more flexible schedule than those allowed by a traditional school. If that sounds like you, read on to determine whether distance learning is a viable option.

How Do Online MSN Programs Work?

While other graduate degrees can be earned entirely online, MSN programs have a slightly different approach. Online nursing programs are unique in that they combine two delivery methods: online instruction and classroom-based learning. This method is called the hybrid or blended model of teaching. Students complete the lecture and research component online, while simultaneously enrolling in on-campus clinical and lab courses. The online portion is conducted through a course management software system such as Blackboard or Angel. Professors can post assignments, exams, and course materials which students access from their computers. Since the lab exercises are designed to simulate real practice settings, students complete all their clinical training in the classroom. Students engage in clinical demonstrations and direct patient care with other medical professionals.

Application Process

Applying to an online MSN program typically follows the same process as a traditional on-campus program. However, choosing a school close to home is recommended due the hybrid component of the lessons. Labs are typically scheduled very frequently to accommodate student’s class and work schedules. Some online programs, however, will match students to clinicals in their area. The clinical requirements are mandatory and vary by state. Nurses must meet these requirements to practice and become board certified. For example, the state of Illinois has its own licensure laws and nurse practice act that students can access online.

MSN degrees prepare nurses for advanced practice in specialty roles, or healthcare management and leadership positions. Many schools offer courses to achieve your goals of becoming a nurse practitioner or a certified nurse mid-wife. Future nurse educators and administrators will research online programs with an emphasis on informatics and database management. Options are endless and many advanced nursing careers have been identified by The Bureau of Labor Statistics as jobs in high demand with great earning potential. Jobs in healthcare are projected to grow more than most other occupations. Nurse Practitioner growth is expecting a 36% growth from 2016-2026:

RN to MSN Graduate Admission Checklist:

Once you have researched schools in your area, review the checklist below to make sure you have all the required documents. Colleges and universities have their own specific requirements for graduate admissions. Be sure to visit each school’s website to verify the materials you need to submit.

  1. MSN Departmental Application: Graduate programs have a separate applications since the requirements are specific to the area of study.
  2. Official college and/or university transcripts from all institutions attended: Applicants must submit transcripts signed by the Registrar which list their awarded degrees.
  3. Current RN license: All MSN programs require applicants to possess a current RN license in the state where all clinicals will be completed.
  4. A current resume: Many schools require an updated resume documenting RN clinical practice.
  5. Personal statement: Students are often required to submit a personal statement explaining career goals, choice of major, and why they want to pursue an advanced degree in nursing.
  6. GRE scores: Not all schools require students to take the GRE. Some schools waive it if a student maintained a GPA of 3.0 (out of 4.0).
  7. Letters of recommendation: Some schools require two or three written letters of recommendation from former or current employers or previous nursing professors.

What are the Benefits of Online Nursing Programs?

Online nursing programs offer the best of both worlds – the convenience of online study with live classroom interaction. MSN programs are rigorous and designed to challenge students to become leaders in their field. If you cannot attend school full-time or need to schedule classes around work, online education affords students the flexibility to fulfil some requirements from home. Distance learning enables healthcare professionals to advance their careers while still meeting their other commitments. Below are some additional benefits that an online institution provides:

  • Time and cost savings: Students who attend classes online save money on transportation, tuition, and other fees associated with on-campus programs.
  • Award-winning faculty: Many online professors have impressive resumes with extensive clinical training and research experience.
  • State-of the-art technology: Online schools have developed tools and technology to create a dynamic, immersive experience for students.
  • Personalized curriculum: Students have the ability to study not only at their own pace, but also on their own time. Even though the clinical component requires on-campus attendance, many schools schedule labs throughout the day and evening to accommodate students.

Is an Online Nursing Program Right for Me?

The hybrid model of online MSN programs offers students the combined benefits of remote instruction and personal interaction. Determining the right school to meet your personal needs requires students to do some homework. The following questions will help you assess your candidacy as an online MSN applicant:

  1. Am I comfortable with computers and using the Internet to access course materials?
  2. Do I have reliable transportation to attend on-campus labs and other clinical training requirements?
  3. Does that school offer the degree program that will help advance your career and education?
  4. Am I motivated and self-disciplined to complete rigorous coursework on my own time?

If you feel confident with your answers and are prepared to move forward, research our list of online MSN programs on the Home Page to find a school that meets your goals. You’re only a click away from accessing information that will lead you to the path of success.