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Characteristics of Graduates
The disciplinary and professional domains of nursing give direction to current and evolving nursing practice. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree prepares nurses for practice as advanced generalists as Clinical Nurse Leaders or in specialty practice as Nurse Practitioners or Clinical Nurse Specialists.
The Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) is prepared through graduate nursing education as an advanced generalist nurse who provides and leads care at the point of care to individuals and groups or populations in all settings in which health care is delivered. The CNL designs, implements, and evaluates client care by coordinating, delegating and supervising care provided by the health care team. Nurses implementing these roles are prepared to provide leadership and assume accountability for client care outcomes through assimilation and application of evidence-based information to design, implement, and evaluate client plans of care.
MSN-prepared nurses in specialty practice demonstrate in-depth knowledge and skills in nursing and health care systems with diverse populations. Components of their roles are expert clinical practice or leadership, assessment of outcomes, research, teaching, collaboration, and consultation within health care systems or in the community. Nurses prepared through graduate nursing programs with advanced practice knowledge, critical thinking, and decision-making skills can function in a variety of nursing roles. Examples of such roles include clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner. Nurses implementing these roles demonstrate specialized knowledge and skills. For example, nurses engaged in advanced clinical practice conduct in-depth assessments and demonstrate expertise in judgment and decision-making for purposes of health promotion/disease prevention, intervention, and follow-up in specified populations. Implementation of a particular role may emphasize some role attributes more than others and reflect the advanced practice nurse’s area of expertise.
Purpose The purpose of the master’s program is to prepare nurses with strong critical thinking and decision-making skills for generalist practice as a clinical nurse leader, or as an advanced practice registered nurse in acute care, primary care, or psychiatric mental health.
Graduates of the MSN program are expected to:
- Integrate theoretical and research based knowledge as a generalist leader or in an advanced nursing practice specialty.
- Provide care and comfort to individuals, families and groups experiencing complex health care needs.
- Provide care that reflects sensitivity to differences among culturally and ethnically diverse populations.
- Assume a leadership role in establishing and monitoring standards of practice to improve patient care in collaboration with other nursing experts.
- Use ethical principles to guide decision-making in nursing practice.
- Evaluate clinical practice in relation to professional practice standards and relevant statutes and regulations.
- Apply the research process to improve evidence based clinical practice and contribute to knowledge development.
- Engage in self-directed and purposeful activities in seeking necessary knowledge and skills to enhance career goals.
- Examine economic, political, and social forces affecting nursing care delivery in complex health care systems.
- Promote multidisciplinary collaboration to ensure quality, cost effective care.
- Contribute to the development of peers, colleagues, and others to improve patient care and foster the growth of professional nursing.
- Act as change agents to create environments that promote effective nursing practice and patient outcomes.
These core characteristics are in accordance with national guidelines for the Clinical Nurse Leader and professional standards of advanced nursing practice specialties.
Admission Individuals with BSN degrees apply for the MSN tracks leading to preparation in advanced practice. Registered nurses with a Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing area may apply for CNL MSN track. Non-nurse applicants with baccalaureate degrees in fields other than nursing apply for the Master’s-Entry Clinical Nurse Leader track.
Master’s Entry MSN: Applicants are offered admission to the Master’s Entry MSN: Clinical Nurse Leader track on the basis of intellectual capacity, healthcare experience, academic performance, maturity, clarity of goals, and other qualities appropriate to graduate study in nursing. Not all of these qualities are measured in absolute terms, and the decision to make an offer of admission is based on a balanced appraisal of the total application record.
The applicant must:
- Have a baccalaureate or master’s degree from a nationally accredited school
- Have a minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
- Successfully complete the following prerequisite courses before enrolling:
- Human Anatomy & Physiology within the past five years
- A course in Microbiology within the past five years
- A course in life span development (conception to death)
- A course in statistics at the graduate or undergraduate level within the past 5 years
- The GRE is required only for those with an undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.25 or lower from your first bachelor’s degree.
- Submit three satisfactory academic and professional recommendations. If possible, one should be from someone in healthcare.
- Submit a copy of your resume or CV
- Have prior work or volunteer experience in healthcare; exposure to nursing is recommended
- Be available for an interview if requested; this might be a phone interview with members of the admissions committee
Advanced Generalist and Specialty Practice Preparation Applicants are offered admission to the Master of Science in Nursing program on the basis of intellectual capacity, clinical and academic performance, maturity, clarity of goals, and other qualities appropriate to graduate study in nursing. Not all of these qualities are measured in absolute terms, and the decision to make an offer of admission is based on a balanced appraisal of the total application record. Applicants to advanced practice specialties who have limited relevant clinical experience may be admitted and gain that experience while enrolled in core/pre-clinical courses.
The applicant must:
- Have completed a baccalaureate degree in nursing from a nationally accredited school. NOTE: Registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing area may apply for Clinical Nurse Leader MSN.
- Have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in undergraduate study.
- Complete a college-level course in statistics within the past five (5) years.
- Submit three satisfactory academic and professional recommendations.
- Submit a current resume or curriculum vitae.
- Possess an unencumbered RN license.
- Be available for an interview if requested; this might be a phone interview with members of the admissions committee.
- International applicants have additional admissions requirements
Applicants who are non-native speakers of English must demonstrate a strong ability in academic English from the TOEFL or IELTS examination.
Technology requirements: All graduate nursing students are required to have a laptop. Students in the NP and CNS tracks programs are also required to have a smartphone (Apple or Android). Information on the laptop and smartphone requirements will be sent to enrolling students in the summer before classes begin.
Note: Relevant experience (determined by the specialty track to which the applicant is applying) is a prerequisite to enrolling in GNUR 6020 and 6025, Advanced Pharmacoloy and Advanced Health Assessment. Qualified applicants who have not passed the NCLEX may be considered as visiting students pending licensure.
Admission Procedures Applications for admission are obtained and submitted online from the School of Nursing website. In addition to submitting the completed application, the applicant must:
- Request that official transcripts of all academic work be forwarded by the institutions to the Office of Admissions and Student Services, Master’s Program, School of Nursing;
- Obtain three statements of recommendation from persons who can speak directly to the applicant’s ability to pursue graduate study. The statements of recommendation are to be sent by their authors to the Office of Admissions and Student Services, Master’s Program, School of Nursing. Forms to be used are available in the online application.
Application Deadlines The application deadline for fall entry is November 1 of the year prior to enrollment.
All correspondence concerning admission should be addressed to the Assistant Director for Admissions and Financial Aid, Office of Admissions and Student Services, School of Nursing, P.O. Box 800826, Charlottesville, VA 22908 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matriculation After admission into the MSN program, a student has one calendar year in which to matriculate. A student who fails to begin classes within one year must re-apply for admission.
Degree Requirements Satisfactory completion of a minimum of 75 credits of approved graduate courses for students in the Master’s-entry MSN CNL track; 34-41 credits for the RN-CNL track; 49-51 credits for students in the Family or Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (NP); 47 credits for students in the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP track; 45 credits for students in the Psychiatric-Mental Health NP track; and up to 57 credits of course work for students in the combined AG-ACNP/CNS tracks. Course requirements are specified under the Program Description section.
Satisfactory completion of all course work as specified in the policy on grades, with a final cumulative grade point average of at least 3.000 (B).
MSN students have a maximum of 10 semesters from the date of matriculation in which to complete all graduation requirements while certificate specialty students have 6 semesters. Exceptions must be approved by the advisor, department chair, and the Program Director and are granted only under extenuating circumstances.
Enrollment and payment of tuition and fees for no fewer than two regular semesters or the equivalent are required.
Generalist Practice - Clinical Nurse Leader Track
This track prepares students for advanced generalist nursing practice as a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) to provide and manage care at the point of care to individuals and cohorts or populations in all settings in which health care is delivered. Emphasis is placed on providing students with the advanced theoretical knowledge and practice skills needed to design, implement, and evaluate client care by coordinating, delegating and supervising the care provided by the health care team. Students are prepared to provide leadership and assume accountability for client care outcomes through assimilation and application of research-based information to design, implement, and evaluate client plans of care. Evidence-based practice, outcomes management, clinical research, and clinical decision-making are emphasized. At the completion of this track, Master’s-entry students are qualified to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become licensed as a registered nurse (RN). All graduates are eligible to sit for national certification as a Clinical Nurse Leader ®. This track admits students at three points of entry:
Master’s- Entry for non-nurses with a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in a non-nursing areas.
BSN entry for BSN prepared nurses.
RN entry for RN’s who have a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in a non-nursing area.
Clinical Nurse Leader Track
75 credits, 1000 clinical hours for Master’s Entry for non-nurses
35 credits for BSN-prepared nurses
41 credits for ADN-prepared nurses
- NUIP 4200 - Pathophysiology Credits: 4
Clinical Nurse Leader - Post Baccalaureate Entry (Nurses with a BSN or BS/BA in another discipline)
34-41 credits, 400 clinical hours
Applications with a BS/BA in a non-nursing discipline are required to take:
Nurse Practitioner Tracks
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Track
47 credits, 560 clinical hours
This advanced practice track prepares nurses to practice in a wide variety of medical and surgical critical care, acute care, and specialty clinics. The Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP) focuses on the care and/or management of young adults, adults, elderly, and frail elderly patients over a continuum of wellness, acute illness and chronic illness.
The AG-ACNP track prepares the student to use evidence-based knowledge and skills to manage patients as a nurse practitioner in collaboration with other members of the health care team. The AG-ACNP is prepared as a generalist in the first practicum but may specialize in an area specialty in the second semester practicum. Emphasis is placed on providing the student with the advanced theoretical knowledge and practice skills needed to care for acutely and chronically ill patients through all phases of their hospitalization and clinical follow-up. Diagnostic and clinical decision-making, preparation for prescriptive authority, collaboration with physicians, and outcomes management are emphasized.
Upon completion of this track, students are qualified to take the American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC) certification examination for the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner.
Primary Care: Family or Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Track
49-51 credits, 616 hours
The curriculum leading to the degree of Master of Science in Nursing prepares nurses for advanced practice as family nurse practitioners or pediatric nurse practitioners. Students in the track complete core courses in nursing theory, research, epidemiology/population-based assessment, and health policy. Courses in advanced pathophysiology, pharmacology, and advanced health assessment are also required of all students in the primary care nurse practitioner tracks. Clinical seminars and 616-hour clinical preceptorships are designed to provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills to practice as nurse practitioners in primary care settings. Due to the track’s rural, underserved focus, one of the two preceptorship rotations occurs outside of Albemarle County.
Nearly all of the tracks may be completed in four semesters and one summer of full-time study. At the completion of the Family or Pediatric Nurse Practitioner track, students are eligible to sit for certification exam by the American Nurses Credentialing Center of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners or the National Certification Board of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.
Following are required courses for the specific areas of concentration in the Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Tracks.
Primary Care: Public Health Nursing Leadership/Family Nurse Practitioner Track
No new enrollment is being accepted into the Public Health Nursing Leadership/Family Nurse Practitioner Track at this time.
60 credits, 672 clinical hours
Primary Care: Public Health Nursing/Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Track
No new enrollment is being accepted into the Public Health Nursing Leadership/Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Track at this time.
58 credits, 672 clinical hours
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Track (PMHNP)
45 credits, 560 clinical hours
This area of concentration prepares nurses for advanced practice in the field of psychiatric-mental health nursing. Students complete core nursing courses, core advanced practice courses, and specialty specific courses. Major emphasis include the neurostructural, neurochemical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and cultural correlates of psychiatric illness in the context of the advanced practice of psychiatric-mental health nursing. Supervised clinical practice is directed toward applying this emerging scientific knowledge to patient care through psychiatric-mental health nursing interventions including prescriptive practice. Faculty work closely with students to develop individualized clinical experiences in appropriate settings. Graduates are prepared to practice in the PMHNP role and are qualified to sit for American Nursing Credentialing Center PMHNP certification.
Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Track
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialty Track
45 credits, 560 clinical hours
This advanced practice track prepares nurses to practice in a wide variety of medical and surgical critical care, acute care, and specialty clinics. The Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist (AG-ACCNS) focuses on the care and/or management of young adults, adults, elderly, and frail elderly patients over a continuum of wellness, acute illness and chronic illness.
In the first practicum the AG-ACCNS track emphasizes the acquisition of advanced specialized knowledge and skills while the second “synthesis” practicum focuses on the role of the CNS. Emphasis is placed on the use of evidence-based clinical knowledge and skills to teach, conduct research, and act as a change agent in the role of a clinical nurse specialist.
Specialty Practice Tracks
The curriculum leading to the degree of Master of Science in Nursing for specialty practice is designed to prepare nurses with BSN degrees for advanced practice or leadership roles in nursing specialty areas. All students complete master’s core courses in nursing theory, research, epidemiology, and health policy. Opportunities for concentration include five specialty areas: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Health Systems Management. Primary Care (Family and Pediatrics), Psychiatric Mental Health, or Public Health Nursing Leadership.
Program Course Work
Some core courses are offered online; and three specialty areas (Health Systems Management, Psychiatric Mental Health Post-Master’s Certificate, and Public Health Nursing Leadership) may be completed totally online. The ratio of clinical hours to credits is 4:1. Courses are taught only if there are a sufficient number of students registering for them. Semester schedules published by the Office of the Registrar must be consulted for courses to be offered during a given semester and for those offered online.
Following are descriptions and required courses for each clinical specialty concentration.
Leadership Specialty Tracks
Public Health Nursing Leadership Track
No new enrollment is being accepted into the Public Health Nursing Leadership Track at this time.
38 credits, 504 clinical hours
New opportunities for nursing leadership are abundant as health care shifts from hospital-based to community-oriented systems. The Public Health Nursing Leadership concentration prepares nurses for specialized practice in promoting the health of individuals, families, groups, and populations. Emphasis is on the development of knowledge and expertise to assess the health status and health delivery systems of populations and to design nursing interventions to better manage care in complex settings. Courses provide the required knowledge and expertise needed to plan, implement, and evaluate care in population settings, including public health departments, schools, home health agencies, and nursing clinics. Care management strategies to assure continuity of health service delivery for individuals and groups at the local and global level are emphasized. International learning experiences are available.
The MSN in Public Health Nursing Leadership is also offered for students who do not live in Central Virginia. In this option, students enroll in 2-4 courses per term and complete most of the course requirements via the internet. Classes meet ‘live’ at the University twice per term (at the beginning and end of the semester). Upon completion of this track, students are qualified to take the American Nursing Credentialing Center certification examination in Community Health Nursing.
Health Systems Management Track
No new enrollment is being accepted into the Health Systems Management Track at this time.
The Health Systems Management concentration prepares nurse leaders at the MSN level for management and executive level positions in complex health care organizations including public and private sector hospitals, ambulatory care facilities, and long-term care facilities as well as for positions in quality improvement, information systems, and policy. This program emphasizes competencies in (1) communication and relationship building, (2) knowledge of the healthcare environment, (3) transformational leadership, (4) professionalism, and (5) business skills. Innovative learning experiences are designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to perform effectively at the business and clinical interface of health care delivery organizations.
Distance Education Option: The MSN in Health Systems Management is offered in an online, web-based format. In this option, students enroll in 2-4 courses per term and complete most of the course requirements via the internet. Classes meet ‘live’ at the University twice per term (first and last days). Active-duty military nurses and their dependents are exempt from the requirement to attend classes in Charlottesville and may access these class meetings via a web-camera.
Students completing the health systems management track will have completed course work necessary for Certification in Nursing Administration, Advanced or Certification in Nursing Administration. The practice requirements for this Certification are met through paid employment as a nurse manager or nurse executive for 24 months of the last 5 years. Thus graduates will need to gain this experience prior to certification.