Montana is a unique state because 80 percent of the state is rural, and they suffer from a nursing shortage just like the rest of the U.S. While there have been few studies on rural nursing, one study was completed on nurses that had been employed in a rural setting for at least one year. The resulting survey reflected a higher job satisfaction, and the nurses indicated a rural lifestyle preference. The nurses stated they had great job satisfaction, which they received from the job variability and patient variety as well. Montana does have a nursing shortage in their cities also. If you have a bachelor's degree and are not satisfied with your current career, this may be the ideal time attend graduate school for nursing.
Direct Entry MSN programs are growing as adults with bachelor's degrees in other fields are interested in getting a graduate degree in nursing for a career change. There are some Direct Entry programs available online, and in Montana the University of Montana offers an on campus program.
The University of Montana has a Master of Nursing degree for Clinical Nurse Leaders (CNL) as a Direct Entry option. This is a five semester program of study with a long list of educational objectives for the CNL. A Clinical Nurse Leader assumes accountability for patient outcomes and effects change through advocacy for patients and the interdisciplinary healthcare team. They learn to communicate effectively, pursue knowledge and skills to understand the needs of clients and the healthcare delivery system as well. They work to improve safety, improve efficiency, and they use information systems and technology to improve the healthcare outcomes.
The admission requirements are similar to most accelerated MSN programs across the country and include:
- A baccalaureate degree from an accredited university
- Official transcripts from all undergraduate or post baccalaureate study
- An undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better
- Three letters of reference that address the applicant's chances of success in the master's program
- A personal statement indicating your objectives for pursuing the curriculum and degree for which you seek admission
- Official entrance examination scores for the GRE
- Required prerequisite courses with a minimum of three of the five required natural sciences
The Clinical Nurse Leader portion itself requires 34 credits with the following curriculum:
- Advance Health Assessment (required with clinical lab)
- Evidence-based Practice I
- Statistical Applications for Graduate Nursing
- Design of Healthcare Delivery Systems
- Finance and Budget
- Clinical Nurse Leader Laboratory I (2 clinical labs)
- Professional Paper/Project
- Clinical Leadership Practicum
Following graduation the student is eligible to take the NCLEX-RN and credential examinations. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing offers the CNL certification exam. If your examination is administered at a school of nursing, the fee is $345, but if it is administered at a Testing Site the fee is $410. The CNL Certification “recognizes individuals who have demonstrated professional standards and knowledge.”
Clinical Nurse Leaders in Montana as of May 2012 earn an average annual salary of $73,410 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries always depend on your education, credentials, your experience and your employer. Nurses in rural areas average less income than those in cities; however, the job outlook for all nurses is excellent and expected to grow by 20 percent between 2012 two 2022.
Visit the Financial Aid Office to complete a FAFSA application for Federal Student Aid if you live with a low income. There are also Tuition Waivers available at the University of Montana that include:
- American Indian Student Tuition Waiver
- Montana Honorably Discharged Veteran Tuition Waiver
- Faculty/Staff Waiver
- Dependence of Faculty/Staff Partial Tuition Waiver
- Surviving Spouse or Child of a MT Firefighter or Piece Officer Tuition Waiver
- For Orphans Tuition Waiver
- Dependence of Prisoners of War Tuition Waiver
The Health Resources and Services Administration also has numerous low interest loans and scholarships. The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program requires a nurse to work for two years in one of the Health Professional Shortage Areas and the program will pay off 60 percent of the unpaid nursing student loans, and an additional 25 percent of the original balance for an optional third year.
If you are considering getting your graduate degree, this might be the ideal time to enroll in college through the Direct Entry Program. Earning a graduate degree can give you a great sense of satisfaction, and it will give you a step up in your new career in healthcare, which may also increase your income.