Do I Need Clinical Experience Before Entering Nursing Graduate School?

Depending on the person, experience before nursing graduate school may be a good idea. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), admission committees for graduate nursing programs look closely at clinical work experience when they make their decisions. Accumulating work experience before entering nursing graduate school must be properly balanced with career goals, personal preferences and program requirements.

The Advantages of Working as a Nurse Before Graduate School

The national move toward health care reform and the growing demand for competent health care professionals are creating new care delivery models and employment opportunities for nurses. For some nurses, the benefits of starting work after earning an undergraduate degree are a good choice. This is because they will earn money to pay off student debts before taking on the educational expenses of graduate programs. The demand for nurses is expected to remain high for the foreseeable future, so there are plenty of available jobs. Some nurses want to try their new career out to ensure that it’s a long-term fit. In this way, they can assess their competencies and preferences before choosing an advanced area of specialization. Working as a nurse before school is advantageous because students will be familiar with the terminology, equipment, pharmacology and care practices.

The Advantages of Directly Attending Nursing Graduate School

For some nurses, the idea of completing a four-year degree and then entering a master’s degree program is the right choice. This will allow these nurses to finish their educational programs back to back, which means they will already be in the habit of studying, attending classes and taking exams. Once students have been out of school, it is notably difficult to maintain good study habits. Some nurses want to begin their nursing specialty career as opposed to first working as a registered nurse for several years. Directly attending nursing graduate school will mean that certain people will be better prepared and positioned to start a family and take on important personal commitments. So many nurses who graduate from four-year degree programs and start working right away become comfortable with their routine and expect a monthly salary. This often leads to a set lifestyle that hinders certain nurses from returning to school.

Nursing Graduate School Options

Fortunately, there are many nursing degree options for graduate students who want to work in a variety of advanced positions in teaching, research, administration and direct patient care. The basic master’s degree is perfect for nurses who have a bachelor’s in nursing or a graduate degree in a non-nursing discipline. These programs generally take two to three years to finish. This traditional degree allows students to concentrate their learning on approved focus areas RN to master’s degree programs are designed for nurses with two-year degrees.

Each program will have specific requirements that are based on the student’s previous course work and work experience. Many of these are offered online or through hybrid classes that blend online and classroom instruction. The bachelor’s level content is integrated into the beginning of the program. There are standard dual master’s degree programs that match popular majors together. These include the MSN/MBA, which integrates nursing and business coursework, and the MSN/MPH, which combines nursing with public health. The MSN/MHA combines nursing with health administration and the MSN/MPA integrates nursing with public administration.

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For most nurses, experience before nursing graduate school will help them gain skills, learn faster and academically perform better.