MSN Curriculum: What to Expect

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A smiling nurse standing in front of the medical team.Nurses are indispensable to the healthcare industry. They work at the front lines, managing patient health and collaborating with physicians and other healthcare professionals in delivering effective care to patients.

They are also in high demand. An ongoing nursing shortage has created abundant opportunities for those who are interested in pursuing a career as an advanced practice nurse. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the nurse practitioner profession is projected to grow 52% between 2020 and 2030, which is more than five times the projected growth of the job market as a whole.

An advanced degree can help nurses take advantage of these opportunities. A focused and informative Master of Science in Nursing curriculum can help students prepare to become leaders in providing quality care.

5 Essential Nursing Skills

There is more to providing effective, efficient patient care than knowing the right procedure for a certain situation. Developing the following skills in an MSN program can help advanced-practice nurses optimize patient care, grow their own talents, and evolve into nurse leaders.

1. Leadership Skills

Nurses in an MSN program can gain insight into what it takes to be a leader. In their professional careers, nurses need confidence and authority when taking charge and making decisions. Nurse leaders must also exhibit patience, passion, and deep critical thinking, which they employ to motivate others and resolve conflicts. Leadership skills are particularly applicable for nurse educators and nurses in executive positions.

2. Applying Clinical Knowledge

A Master of Science in Nursing curriculum can provide students with a wealth of medical knowledge. In addition to having a grasp of nursing theory and clinical concepts, MSN graduates should have the mental acuity to incorporate their vast learning in their everyday roles as nurse practitioners. This is especially useful when applying the evidence-based practice in providing quality patient care.

3. Health Assessment and Decision-Making

Nurse practitioners work in busy environments where clinical decisions need to be accurate and are often made at a moment’s notice. A Master of Science in Nursing curriculum teaches graduates to use a wide array of health assessment tools and to efficiently analyze the results to make educated decisions.

4. Clear Communication

The critical nature of care delivery leaves no room for ambiguity. Nurses must be skilled at dispensing clear, detailed instructions, and listening to and internalizing their patients’ needs. An MSN curriculum can help students hone these skills so they can communicate clearly and effectively at all times, even in hectic emergency environments.

5. Constant Learning

Healthcare is always evolving. From new laws and regulations to technical innovations, fast-moving developments can affect nurses’ roles and responsibilities. An MSN program teaches nurses how to monitor these changes and devise strategies to respond without disrupting patient care.

Typical Courses in a Master of Science in Nursing Curriculum

Comparing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to a Master of Science in Nursing goes beyond considering differences in each degree’s duration and requirements. MSN coursework builds on a prospective nurse practitioner’s knowledge base and cultivates their skills, offering students the tools to become nurse leaders. These are among the courses that most Master of Science in Nursing curricula include:

Pathophysiology in Nursing

Nurse practitioners working at an advanced level must have a comprehensive understanding of the changes and abnormal functions occurring within the human body because of disease or illness. A course in this discipline, called pathophysiology, is a common prerequisite in advanced-practice nursing.

Advanced Pharmacology

Advanced nurse practitioners need significant medical knowledge of the mechanisms, uses, and effects of medicines when educating patients on the proper use of pharmaceutical drugs. This is a required course for advanced-practice nurses that teaches the tenets of pharmacotherapeutics to aid nurses in making clinical decisions about the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses in patients of all ages. Laws relevant to the prescription privileges and authority of advanced-practice nurses are also discussed.

Advanced Health Appraisals

In this course, graduate students who choose to concentrate on nurse education and administration will look at the importance of health assessment data. Students should gain an understanding of the differences between normal and abnormal health assessment data, so they can make better use of health histories and physical examinations, and better understand health risks, in providing care to adult and pediatric patients.

Courses Unique to Ohio University

In addition to the concepts and theories commonly covered in MSN programs, Ohio University’s online Master of Science in Nursing features some special courses that offer students the opportunity to explore innovative ideas in family-based care and nurse education.

Assessment and Intervention for Families

Understanding the healthcare needs of all family members across their life spans is a critical requirement of the family nurse practitioner profession. This course provides an in-depth look at family health theories, evidence-based strategies for maintaining family health, and interventions in family-centered care.

Analyzing Evidence-Based Practice for Advanced Nursing Practice

Nurse practitioners are required to solve problems and make clinical decisions on a daily basis. Evidence-based practice involves reviewing current research and patient health literature and synthesizing this information to make educated care decisions. The course gives students an opportunity to use evidence-based practice, in addition to their clinical expertise and patients’ preferences, to inform their roles in providing advanced care.

Curriculum Development in Nursing

Within the nurse educator concentration, this course teaches curriculum design theories and strategies for developing pre-licensure nursing curricula. By studying curriculum development, nurse educators learn how to create opportunities for future nurse practitioners to build a diagnosis and critical analysis techniques that will benefit them in their careers.

Primary Care of Adults and Older Adults

This course within the family nurse practitioner concentration focuses on intervention strategies and primary care management of adults and their families. Nursing students are educated on techniques for screening and diagnosing minor acute and chronic illnesses, as well as methods of prevention. Upon completing the course, students should be proficient in differential diagnosis and clinical reasoning and have a deep understanding of the collaborative relationship between the family nurse practitioner and physician in managing illnesses in adults and their families.

Prepare for a Bright Future

An advanced degree does more than open the door to nursing practitioner roles — it prepares students to be leaders in shaping how care is delivered. It offers nurses an opportunity to make a noticeable difference in patients’ lives.

Ohio University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program is designed to help students achieve their advanced nursing career goals, with a curriculum that helps working nurses strengthen their existing skills and add new ones to their repertoire. Learn how Ohio University can help pave your way to success.

Recommended Reading

A Look at Today’s Nursing Health Care Challenges

Nine Laws and Regulations Nurse Practitioners Should Know

10 Innovative and Influential Nurse Leaders


Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses, Home

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Standards of Practice for Nurse Practitioners

American Organization for Nursing Leadership, Home

Association of American Medical Colleges, “Hospitals Innovate Amid Dire Nursing Shortages”

National Association of Neonatal Nurses, Leadership Competencies

Ohio University, Online Master of Science in Nursing

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners