The Master of Science in Nursing at the Bedside

Well of course I was going to go into nursing education after graduating with my masters! Then again, other specializations include nursing administration, research, or this new area called “Nursing Informatics”. I could become a Clinical Nurse Specialist, but do I want Geriatrics, Critical Care, Emergency, Women’s Health, Mental Health or Pediatrics? Or should I become a Nurse Practitioner (wait, isn’t that a DNP now?) And what, exactly, is a “Clinical Nurse Leader”? In extremely basic terms, I must decide I want to be when I “grow up” (despite the fact that I’ll be the oldest MSN graduate in history!)

Here’s a subversive thought: why do we have to “be” anything?

What if you graduated with your Master of Science in Nursing, and you stayed at the bedside?

There is an assumption that you take an MSN degree and, like the old “Jeffersons” sit-com theme, you go “movin’ on up”, or more specifically, “movin’on out” of bedside patient care. That option may even be the reason you are obtaining an MSN. Advanced nursing degrees prepare us for leadership roles and opportunities for advanced practice often take place out of the hospital setting. Healthcare delivery is moving away from inpatient care and into communities where advance practice RNs are perfectly placed for primary and preventative care.

So is there any reason to obtain a master’s degree in nursing if you don’t want to leave the bedside? Yes!

Nursing care has become highly complex and as technology evolves, it will become even more so. Not only will the MSN equip you to deal with a rapidly changing, increasingly complex profession, it will change your nursing practice and your patients will benefit.

Notice what I did not say. I did not say it will make you a better nurse. What it will do is: (a) change the way you think about nursing practice, (b) give you greater skill sets from which to draw and (c) broaden your view of the nursing profession and yourself as a professional.

How do I know this? It is exactly what happened when I went from a practicing ADN to a BSN.

My critical thinking skills were honed. Assessment skills were perfected and the basics of leadership understood. I advocated more effectively for my patients because I had confidence when dealing with other disciplines. I understood the hurdles my patients faced navigating the healthcare system: accessing providers, obtaining community services, dealing with insurance and financial issues, and I knew where to find resources to assist them. It opened every aspect of my nursing practice, including my sense of myself as a professional nurse. And the thing about it is, I didn’t realize how much I needed this education until I was enrolled and absorbing this knowledge like a sponge.

What used to be advanced knowledge, what used to be just for those who wanted to “move on out” into other nursing disciplines, is rapidly becoming “need to know” working knowledge for all of us.That patient in the hospital bed, the one who you bathe, medicate; the patient whose vitals you take, whose lungs you assess, whose bedpan you empty? That patient will benefit from your advanced assessment skills, your advanced ability to manage his care team, your advanced knowledge of the pathophysiology of his disease process, your critical thinking skills and knowledge of current care modalities.

That patient needs what you bring to his care because you have that Master of Science in Nursing.

Hey, maybe staying at the bedside isn’t so subversive, after all.

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