Nebraska is home to thousands of registered nurses (RNs) who provide a helping hand for thousands of ailing patients around the state. Many of these nurses chose their career at an early age, enrolling in classes at vocational schools, junior colleges and universities while they were still teenagers or young adults. For some of us, however, the calling to be a nurse comes a little later in life. It is not unusual to meet both young and older adults who majored in different college subjects but later decided to become nurses. Thankfully, there are programs designed specifically for this population of future nurses.
If you are thinking about switching to a nursing career, there are good reasons to trust your instincts. Do you want to make a difference in the lives of others? As a nurse, you can provide essential care to patients in hospitals, doctors’ offices, schools, and even private homes. Do you want a career with job security? In the nursing field, primary care shortages in many states suggest there should be many job openings in the future. Do you want a job where you make a living wage? Nursing salaries typically provide a steady and respectable salary.
America’s nursing schools have been developing new programs to accommodate students just like you, looking to enter nursing with a graduate degree. More than a million new and replacement nurses are expected to be needed by 2020, so creative approaches to nursing education have become a necessity. Innovative programs like the direct entry master’s degree are providing an avenue for non-nursing graduates to enter the nursing workforce at a quicker pace. Nationally, there were 71 of these master’s programs in 2012, and another seven were in the planning stages.
Nebraska’s nursing schools do not currently offer any direct entry master’s degrees, however, you may find distance education options and new programs are cropping up all the time. As you weigh your options, consider these facts about nursing in Nebraska:
- Sixty-five percent of the state’s counties have shortage areas for primary care providers such as nurse practitioners and doctors. More than one-fifth of Nebraska’s population will be over 65 by 2030, creating a greater demand for RNs, according to the Nebraska Action Coalition for the Future of Nursing Campaign.
- A master’s degree in nursing can lead to several careers with competitive salaries. Nebraska’s nurse practitioners made an average yearly salary of $89,020 in 2013, while nurse anesthetists earned an average of $137,980, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A RN earned about $56,920 as a yearly average in 2013.
- Nebraska needs nursing educators with advanced training. About 920 qualified applicants were turned away from the state’s nursing schools in 2013, largely because of a faculty shortage. The average age of the state’s current nursing teachers is 52, so many likely will be retiring in the next 15 years. The average yearly salary for a nursing educator in the state was $69,030 in 2013.
If you apply to a direct entry master’s program, you will find high admissions standards at most schools. The programs typically require applicants to have a grade-point average of 3.0 or above in their baccalaureate degree classes. Many schools also expect you to have earned certain minimum test scores on the Graduate Record Examination. Some nursing schools in Nebraska ask for letters of recommendation and a personal interview.
As a prospective student, you will need to take prerequisite courses in topics like anatomy and physiology, chemistry, developmental psychology, and statistics. At some colleges, you can take these courses as part of your first phase of study, but others expect you to finish them before enrolling. Once you are admitted, most programs take about two or three years to complete.
In a typical direct entry program, you will take classes leading to RN licensing during the first phase of the program. After passing the national licensing exam, you would take clinical classes required for your specialty in a second phase. Some master’s programs lead to a general degree and not to clinical practice as an advanced practice nurse. However, you can expect to participate in hands-on clinical work in any program leading to a primary care career. Typical classes in any discipline include pathophysiology, health assessment, and pharmacology, but specialty classes will differ depending on your area of focus.
The Nebraska Nursing Foundation is a great resource if you are looking for ways to pay for your education. The foundation offers a variety of scholarships for both undergraduate and graduate students. For a look at loan forgiveness programs offered through the federal government, check out the Nurse Corp Loan Repayment Program.
Take some time to review your options for getting your online direct entry MSN in Nebraska and request additional information from those schools that interest you.