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Shortest MSN Programs

Explore the shortest Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs for those with and without a nursing background. Then, learn about some of the common course topics within MSN programs.

Information for Short, Accelerated MSN Programs

There are several types of short, accelerated Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs for current nurses and those with no nursing background. If you already have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), it's possible to earn your MSN in only about 12 months; however, if you have a non-nursing bachelor's degree or an associate degree in nursing, then the shortest program for you would be about 1.5 to 2 years (or longer if you have to complete prerequisite coursework). Along with coursework, MSN programs also require that you complete internships, labs, and/or practicums where you gain practical nursing experience.

Pharmacology

In your MSN program, you typically take a course that instructs you on the use and implementation of therapeutic pharmacological (medication) interventions for patients and their health care needs. In this course, you may study things like pharmacokinetics, or the way drugs move through the body, and pharmacodynamics, or the way a body responds to drugs. You might also be trained on prescribing medications for special populations and patients across their lifespans, focusing on such related areas as metabolism, drug absorption, and excretion.

Nursing Informatics

As healthcare has become more integrated with technology, many MSN programs have added courses that cover how information technologies and computer applications are used within the nursing profession to improve patient outcomes. Usually, you learn various applications that are used in all aspects of nursing, including administration, clinical practice, and research. Some courses also have a technical focus on system design and analysis.

Health Assessment

Generally, a course on health assessment in nursing aims to help you develop advanced skills in assessing a diverse population of patients across the lifespan. Here, you will likely study assessment techniques and methods that cover physical, cultural, psychosocial, and psychological assessments. You might also get an opportunity to build your differential diagnosis skills.

Pathophysiology

Pathophysiology is the study of the body system processes that lead to illness and disease; you might take an advanced course of this type in your MSN program in order to further develop your understanding of physiology and anatomy. The ultimate goal of this course is to give you a solid framework for diagnosing patients and creating a treatment plan. There is often a focus on critical thinking skills as they relate to applying your knowledge of pathophysiology to diagnostic methods.

Health Policy and Healthcare Systems

As a nurse, it's possible that you will work in different healthcare systems and will encounter policy issues that affect the quality of care you're able to provide. Courses on health policy and healthcare systems explore the political aspects of nursing and healthcare and how nurses can act as advocates to enact positive policy changes. A lot of these courses cover health policy development in terms of regulations, laws, and economics.

Evidence-Based Nursing Practice

This type of course explores the ways that nursing knowledge, theory, and research can be used to enact an evidence-based nursing practice. As such, you generally learn how to evaluate clinical research and how to use data analysis. The overreaching goal of these courses is to help you make knowledgeable decisions about patient care and nursing practice that are based on solid analysis of healthcare research.

Admissions Requirements for MSN Programs

As there are several different types of MSN programs, admission requirements can vary, and it's always best to choose a program that fits with your educational or professional background. For example, while some programs require a BSN, others only require a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field. Still other programs are designed for nurses who have an associate degree in nursing. It's also important to note that non-nursing and associate degree MSN programs may require prerequisite coursework, which could increase the length of your program. Other application materials for all program types may include:

  • Transcripts
  • RN license (not all programs)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • GRE scores (not all programs)
  • Resume
  • Statement of purpose

For nurses with a BSN, it is possible to complete your MSN degree in about 12 months of study; however, for those with a non-nursing bachelor's or an associate in nursing, your shortest program option will be an accelerated 1.5 to 2 year-MSN. No matter which MSN program you choose to attend, you will be required to take coursework that touches on everything from pharmacology to health assessment and requires nursing practicums and/or internships.