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Earning Your MSN Degree: Where Should You Specialize?

Posted by Marc Costanzo, revised by Sara Giboney Friday, May. 24, 2024

When you get your Master of Science in Nursing, you’re catapulting yourself to the cutting edge of an in-demand field. 

Your new credentials show the world that you’re a leader within healthcare, capable of tackling any challenges that may arise.

But how do you know which area to specialize in? Nursing careers can take you many places, but where you choose to focus your education will be a deciding factor in your journey.

Nebraska Methodist College (NMC) offers four online MSN specialization options - care coordinator, nurse educator, nurse executive and nursing informatics.

Each of these advanced nursing practice areas allow you to help many people, but they do so in different ways.

MSN Degree Where Should You Specialize

Care Coordinator: Advocating for Patients and Their Families

Navigating the healthcare system can be challenging for patients and their families. But having a compassionate and knowledgeable advocate makes the process more manageable.

Care coordinators, also known as patient navigators or patient care facilitators, collaborate with healthcare teams to help facilitate the trajectory of patients’ conditions and provide support.

“Care coordinators act as a bridge between patients, healthcare providers and healthcare services. They ensure that patients receive timely, efficient and patient-centered care,” said Jill Scott, associate professor and care coordinator track coordinator at NMC.

An MSN in care coordination equips students with advanced knowledge and skills beyond the foundational nursing education provided by a BSN program. 

“This specialization focuses on comprehensive care management, health promotion and disease prevention across various healthcare settings. This enhanced expertise not only broadens your understanding of complex healthcare systems, but also prepares you to handle challenging patient care scenarios,” said Scott.

Read more: How to Become a Patient Care Coordinator

Nurse Educator Specialization: Teaching the Future of Nursing

One of the largest areas of need within healthcare today is educators who teach the nursing professionals of tomorrow. Healthcare continues to expand at an astonishing rate, which means we need more people than ever to fill critical positions.

Before individuals can enter the ranks of nursing, they have to be educated, and that’s where you come in. Within the nurse educator track, you’ll learn to teach others how to be the best nursing professionals they can be.

The nurse educator track will provide you with the academic framework needed to truly excel within an academic setting. You’ll learn about things like pedagogy, instructional methods and curriculum development, and you will ultimately complete a practicum in nursing education.

Once you graduate, the shift from a clinical to an educational setting isn’t as dramatic as one might think. You’ll be in a classroom for part of your time, but you’re also likely to spend time within clinical settings, helping students gain the necessary experience to thrive independently once they graduate and become professional nurses themselves.

The Nurse Faculty Loan Program is perhaps the most attractive benefit. Because of the intense demand for nurse educators, the federal government created the NFLP to draw nurses to the teaching profession by helping them pay for school. If you sign a contract agreeing to teach full-time for four years, you can have up to 85% of your student loans forgiven.

Earning Your MSN Degree Where Should You SpecializeNurse Executive Role: Steering Hospital Administration

Nurses are stepping into important administrative and leadership roles within health systems across the country, shaping the future of healthcare as directors, chief nursing officers and more.

The nurse executive track will prepare you to assume a senior leadership position at a hospital system or major healthcare corporation. Being a nurse executive is all about taking your experience as a nurse and applying management techniques and business skills to become an even more effective leader, thus influencing the decision-making process at the highest levels of healthcare.

Your nursing experience makes you uniquely suited to having a guiding influence on policies. You’ve seen the needs of patients firsthand, and you know how to shape policy to improve healthcare and maximize hospital efficiency.

“Because healthcare systems are constantly evolving, especially with changes in regulations, patient demographics, and technology, nurses need to be equipped with skills to navigate these changes effectively,” said Tawnya Roberts, associate professor and nurse executive track coordinator at NMC.

The classwork in the nurse executive track teaches you to perfect these skills and put them into action in a dynamic way. You’ll find out how to effectively develop and communicate your ideas, implement effective solutions to healthcare conundrums and take your healthcare organization to the next level of success.

Where Should You Specialize Your MSN Degree

Nursing Informatics Specialization: Bridging Data and Patient Care

You’ve helped patients overcome incredible odds. You’ve seen the obstacles that a person can surmount. You know when policies and mandates could be improved and how to go about that process.

If you want to turn your intuition into an actionable insight backed by hard data, then the nursing informatics track may be your best option.

A specialization in nursing informatics will give you the education you need to harness data from multiple sources in order to develop action steps that improve outcomes at the patient and population level, a skill that’s more important than ever in the wake of the Affordable Care Act.

Informatics specialization gives you the ability to evolve healthcare in the most intelligent way possible. Because of your clinical experience, you’re positioned to act as a liaison between the nursing staff and the Information Technology portion of a system.

“Nurses with an MSN in nursing informatics play a crucial role in modern healthcare. Nursing informatics integrates data, information, knowledge and technology to support patient care. Far surpassing the confines of Electronic Health Records and mobile technology, it includes an array of instruments and systems like data analytics, clinical decision support and telehealth services. These resources aid nurses in making informed decisions, refining workflows and delivering all-encompassing care,” said Courtney Kennedy, associate professor and nursing informatics track coordinator at NMC. 

You see the people, not the numbers, and that’s what makes you well-equipped to be the one who analyzes the numbers to overcome the challenges of the modern healthcare world. Even things like data analysis and implementation require a compassionate hand, which is why nurses are exploring their possibilities with Informatics like never before.

Choosing Your MSN Path: Specialization in Nursing

The MSN degree benefits are plenty, but only you know which career path is right for you. 

NMC has degree options for nurses who have their BSN and those who don’t, so you owe it to yourself to explore the possibilities. 

All nursing master’s degree tracks are 100% online with flexible coursework that can be done on students’ own time. Courses are five to 10 weeks long, with one week off before the next course starts.

Faculty provide graduate students with the support they need to succeed.

Read more: Steps to Succeed in Online Learning as a Graduate Student

Qualifying Methodist Health System employees may be eligible for a 20% tuition discount for the Master of Science in Nursing program at NMC. Learn more about NMC’s Corporate Learning Partner program.

If you’re ready to get your master’s in nursing and take your nursing career to the next level, schedule an in-person or virtual meeting with the NMC admissions team.

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Topics: nurse education, nursing, graduate programs, msn
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