Changing Careers: Getting an MSN with an MHA Degree

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Ruben always wanted to be a nurse. He had even started working toward his nursing degree only to be talked out of it in favor of pursuing a business degree instead.

“I was always told that I was going to be a better manager, I was going to like management better, there were going to be better opportunities for me there,” says Ruben, a recent graduate of Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program. “So I listened.”

That meant earning a business degree, followed by a Master of Science in Healthcare Administration (MHA), which led to him becoming the manager of a bariatric practice. But he wasn’t happy. Despite his success, that little voice inside his head kept telling him, “You have to go back to nursing school,” and he soon found himself researching getting an MSN with an MHA degree.

“I like taking care of people. I like feeling like what I do has some kind of meaning, that I’m helping someone or a group of people,” he confesses. “I just found myself stuck in an office, behind a desk, watching the clinical staff take care of people, and I was just sitting on the sidelines watching.”

Finding the Right Nursing Program

For Ruben, the decision to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree just made sense. He already had a master’s degree, so getting a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree seemed almost like a step backward.

“I didn’t want to have to start from scratch again,” Ruben says.

Besides, he was already looking toward the future and the possibility of furthering his nursing education later on. So he set about looking for a school and program that met all of his needs. Namely, he wanted a program that would allow him to become a nurse in less time than had he started over with a four-year program, included online coursework and had an excellent reputation. In the end, he found that Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, was the right fit.

I’m from New Jersey, so the fact that I moved halfway across the country just tells you that this is the one program that I found that gave me everything that I was looking for in terms of flexibility, online scheduling, online classes and being able to get my advanced degree without having to start from scratch.

Ruben, Direct Entry MSN program graduate and cardiology ICU clinical staff nurse

What Can You Do with an MSN Degree?

A Master of Science in Nursing degree can open a lot of doors. In a previous blog, we took a closer look at how BSN and MSN degrees compare, as well as explored some of the many opportunities available to nurses with MSN degrees.

How Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN Program Works

Marquette’s accredited second-degree program allows students who already hold a non-nursing degree to leverage their previous college experience to earn an MSN degree in 19–21 months through a blended curriculum of online coursework, hands-on skills and simulation labs, and clinical rotations.

Online Coursework

Offering more convenience than traditional classroom-based nursing programs, online coursework lets you learn nursing theory when and where it’s convenient for you. Through our Canvas learning management system (LMS), students watch and listen to case studies, presentations and interactive exercises; submit writing assignments based on assigned textbook readings and their own research, respond to forum questions and posts; and even meet up with professors via virtual office hours.

I love it. It allows me to set my own pace. You’re able to watch your lectures online, pause at any time, go take a break, come back, rewind, watch a prior slide…

Hands-On Skills and Simulations Labs

Several times a week, you will participate in skills and simulation labs at our state-of-the-art Pleasant Prairie learning site. Additionally, our learning site is where you’ll take exams, attend NCLEX review sessions and practice tests, attend instructor office hours, meet up with colleagues to study and work on group projects, and practice independently during open lab hours.

Skills and simulation labs provide you the opportunity to get hands-on practice and develop confidence in a clinical setting. In skills lab, you’ll practice essential nursing skills such as inserting a catheter, starting IVs and checking vital signs. Simulation lab uses high-tech manikins to simulate real-life situations nurses will face, such as cardiac arrest, stroke or a patient experiencing an adverse reaction to a treatment. Following simulation lab, you and your classmates will meet with your lab instructor to debrief, allowing you to learn from your mistakes.

Ruben, a Marquette nursing student, participating in a simulation lab

Clinical Experience

Taking place at top hospitals and healthcare providers in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, clinical rotations allow you to experience the world of nursing firsthand. However, don’t think this means you’ll be thrown in unprepared. As Ruben explains it, “You have nurses that are guiding you, and your instructor is always there to make sure you’re doing things the right way.”

Program Requirements and Prereqs

Of course, just because you already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree does not mean you meet all of the program eligibility requirements. As with any Direct Entry MSN program, applicants who do not fulfill all of the requirements may need to take prerequisite courses in order to be admitted, and Ruben was no exception.

Fortunately, Ruben’s admissions adviser worked with him every step of the way to ensure he met the requirements — which included taking several prerequisite courses — filled out the application correctly and even found a place to live that fit his needs.

“I was in contact with my admissions adviser pretty much at least once a week, sometimes two or three times a week,” says Ruben. “Anything I needed, he was always there for me.”

Succeeding in Nursing School

Any nurse will tell you nursing school takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and Ruben is no exception. Despite his graduate-level experience earning an MHA, he says the program is intensive, stressing the importance of organization and routine studying.

“Make sure that you have a very organized, set schedule and that you make studying a priority because if you don’t study the material, you’re not going to make it very far,” he says. “You have to make time for it.”

Also important to Ruben were the strong bonds he formed with his cohort, as well as with his instructors who he says always made themselves available to help, contrary to what some might expect from an online-based curriculum.

Finding Opportunity and Purpose in Nursing

Though he had planned to return to New Jersey after earning his MSN, today Ruben is working as a clinical staff nurse on a cardiovascular intensive care unit — the area of nursing that most interested him during his clinical — while pursuing his doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) from Marquette.

I didn’t want to have to wait. I didn’t want to get out of this groove that I’m in. I know that it’s going to be very difficult for me to go back to school a third time if I stop going to school now.

Make Your Nursing Career a Reality with Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN Program

If you feel like you missed out on your true calling, there’s still time. Ruben’s experience getting an MSN with an MHA degree is proof that it’s never too late to switch careers. Fill out the form or give us a call to find out if our Direct Entry MSN program is right for you.