Earning your MSN is an exciting stepping stone that can help you toward the next level as a nursing professional. If you are new to the MSN programs at South University, here is a list of what you should know about getting started.
1. Your first course sets the stage for the rest of your program.
All MSN students first complete the same five core courses before starting on their MSN program concentration. In the first core course, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about advanced practice nursing roles and what it means to be a transformational leader in nursing. “We study core competencies of each role and have the students start to focus on the advanced practice role they are pursuing,” explains South University nursing faculty member Dr. Cherie Howk. “By the end of the course, students will be (taught) the core competencies of their role to lead them through their program of study.”
2. Active participation is key to success.
The first MSN courses involve didactic instruction rather than clinical, meaning you’ll learn by reading, listening to and discussing a variety of course material. The students who perform best will be those who not only complete the assigned work but also critically analyze and examine the readings and assignments. From the start of class, these top students ask questions and offer thoughts and insights in course discussions. “We've shown a high correlation between a student's success and participation within the course in that first week,” shares Kezia Lilly, DNP, MBA HC, RN, the Associate Dean for South University’s online programs in the College of Nursing and Public Health.
3. The course syllabus is a valuable guide for planning ahead.
Your course syllabus details what you’ll be taught and doing in each course, so pay attention to this document. For the assignments listed, review the requirements carefully and revisit this information before completing your work. Beyond reading the current week’s assignments, look ahead to what is expected of you in the coming weeks. “The courses can move fast, and there is a lot to be done each week. It’s important that you are dedicating the time to complete the coursework, staying ahead of the due dates, and leaving time to study and prepare for exams,” says Dr. Lilly. “For any online exam, you also need to schedule a quiet time where you can focus on completing the exam without interruptions.”
As you do your coursework, Dr. Howk advises remembering that the advanced practice role is new and will take time and effort to learn. “These expert nurses are becoming students and novices again,” she says. “Being aware of this transition will help with the transformation into an Advanced Practice Nurse.”
4. Preparing for practicums requires advance coordination.
Once you begin the MSN program, you should also be thinking about where you will complete your practicum. Reviewing the practicum information packet is a good place to start. It provides information such as:
- Clinical requirements and expectations for students
- When and how to do background checks
- Preceptor responsibilities
- Faculty responsibilities
You should also consider your schedule and time management needs as you plan for your clinical experiences.
5. Help is available when you need it.
The MSN faculty and staff members at South University are committed to helping you succeed and assisting you throughout your program. “Don't hesitate to reach out if you have questions or concerns,” advises Dr. Lilly. “If you think you might not be able to complete an assignment, work with your faculty to see what arrangements can be made.”
To help facilitate the faculty-student connection, let your instructors know the best way to reach you outside of the classroom, whether that’s email, text, phone or video calling. In addition to support from instructors and program leadership, you’ll have access to library resources, tutoring, tools for writing research papers and career resources. As you prepare for your next career move, the career services team can help and your instructors can also offer advice and mentorship.
“In nursing, there can be a weed out the weak mentality, but I am very against that philosophy,” Dr. Lilly shares. “I'm always going to root for the underdog and help them to succeed in every way possible. I'm very much a student advocate and all about providing students with every resource we can.”
Use this list to help you decide if you are ready to take the next step toward getting your MSN.