As a nurse, you are probably already well aware of what a fantastic career it can be. You get to spend your days helping other people during what is often a very stressful time of their lives, positively impacting your local community, and enjoy good levels of employability and job security. After all, nurses will always be needed!
In addition, nursing is a field in which you can continue to develop and progress throughout your entire career. This opens up all sorts of possibilities for you to carve out a job role that truly suits your passions, talents and personality. If you’ve already achieved your Master’s of Science in Nursing degree (MSN), you might be wondering where to go next. The good news is that your learning and improvement don’t need to stop here.
One route you can take after your MSN is to study for a Post-Master’s certificate. The following article goes into this option in more detail, outlining what these certificates entail and the benefits of taking one. Reading it should hopefully help you to decide whether this pathway is the right choice for you. If you find yourself wanting to enrol on one, there are also some top tips on how to prepare for the experience at the end.
What are Post-Master’s nursing certificates?
Post-Master’s nursing certificates are high level programs created especially for nurses who already hold an MSN degree. They are ideal for people who are hoping to move into a more specialist role or further expand their knowledge in their current area. As such, only those who have successfully completed an MSN can enrol on the courses. There may also be other prerequisites you need to meet in order to be eligible, for instance, having a certain amount of experience or having previously studied specific topics in nursing.
Details like the duration of the program will vary depending on which exact certificate you choose, your mode of study, and the educational institution where you enrol. However, as a rough guide, you can expect a post-MSN certificate to take between six months and three years to complete in full. After successfully finishing your chosen course, you might be required to sit certification exams in order to apply for higher level job roles.
The majority of post-MSN nursing certificates involve a mixture of academic and practical work. You’ll normally take a series of modules that are relevant to the specialization you’ve chosen – most of these will be compulsory, but you might have some freedom to pick from a list of electives to make up your credit requirements. You will also generally be expected to complete a clinical placement and perhaps a larger project on a topic of your choice.
What fields can you do a post-MSN nursing certificate in?
Nursing is an extremely varied field; therefore, the areas in which you can opt to do this type of certificate are numerous. Having such a range of specialisms available allows you to focus on the part of nursing that interests you the most and you show the most aptitude.
Here’s a quick list of potential options to give you an overview of the sort of fields you can decide to train in:
- Family Nurse Practitioner – This is ideal for those who would like to provide primary healthcare to patients of all ages and with all sorts of health conditions. It covers areas such as disease management, preventative healthcare measures, and health promotion.
- Adult Gerontology – Becoming an adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner perfectly suits those who wish to care for older adults with a range of acute, chronic and complex conditions in various healthcare settings.
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – At the other end of the scale, this is a great choice for those who want to work with children and their families in a variety of healthcare settings.
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner – This certification qualifies you to work with newborn infants, including those with life-threatening conditions and chronic illnesses. You’ll cover issues such as neonatal resuscitation and supporting new parents during periods of intense stress.
- Nurse Educator – An educational qualification is perfect for those who dream of training up the next generation of nurses and helping them progress in their own careers. In addition to furthering your clinical knowledge, you’ll study topics such as education theory and curriculum design.
- Executive Nurse Leadership – Ambitious nurses with their eyes on a leadership role will be perfect for this option. You’ll learn how to develop policies, shape healthcare systems, manage ethical issues, plus handle finance and human resources.
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner – This certificate trains you in a range of women’s healthcare issues, ranging from pregnancy and sexual health to domestic violence.
- Forensic Nursing – This interesting field involves learning how to conduct medical analysis for use in the courts, as well as provide care for victims of trauma and abuse.
- Mental Health Nurse Practitioner – Mental health is a key issue in today’s society, and this certificate will train you to help people of all ages with all kinds of mental health concerns.
- Emergency Nurse Practitioner – This course teaches you to make diagnoses, decisions and treatment plans in urgent care settings.
As you can see, the potential options open to you are vast. Take some time to consider which aspects of nursing you’re most passionate about and would like to deepen your knowledge of (as well as which certificates you’re eligible for). If you need some guidance, don’t be afraid to reach out to colleagues who have studied post-MSN certificates or colleges that offer them. They’re sure to be happy to provide you with advice.
What are the benefits of doing a nursing certificate after my MSN?
There are all sorts of advantages to be gained by choosing to take a nursing certificate and continuing your studies after your MSN. Perhaps the most obvious is that it’s a wonderful way to deepen your knowledge of your field further and raise your clinical skills to even higher levels. This, in turn, ensures that you can provide the best possible standard of care to the patients you treat.
Lifelong professional development is important in most industries, but especially in the medical field. There are always new research studies being published, new technologies being created, and new techniques being pioneered. Choosing to study for a post-MSN nursing qualification puts you at the forefront of this, helping you keep your skills sharp and your knowledge up to date.
While no qualification can guarantee you a job, having a nursing certificate can also give you a great talking point in interviews. You can highlight your studies as evidence that you’re committed to your career and the concept of professional development.
Lastly, in addition to the specific clinical skills and nursing knowledge you’ll gain on this type of course, you’ll also have the opportunity to work on your transferable skills. These include abilities such as communication, teamwork, leadership, time management, attention to detail, critical thinking and organization. No matter what job you have, such talents are sure to serve you well.
Do I need to go back to college to get a Post-Master’s nursing certificate?
As a general rule, you will need to enrol at a college in order to undertake a post-MSN nursing certificate. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to attend all of your classes on campus physically. In today’s digital world, it’s possible to complete nursing qualifications online. Doing so gives you some freedom to study at a time and place that suits you and at a pace that works best for your unique learning style. Some lectures might be live; however other materials will be made available for you to access at your convenience.
The best part is that your clinical placements will still be conducted in person, so you won’t miss out on any valuable experience or networking opportunities. It simply means you can complete your hours at a location that’s within a reasonable distance of where you live.
Online learning also has the additional benefit of giving you experience working with the latest digital education technology. Much of this software goes on to be used in clinics and other healthcare settings, and you’ll have the advantage of a safe and supportive environment in which to master it first.
Another merit of this kind of distance learning is that it can often save you money. Not only are the tuition fees sometimes lower than those for campus courses, but you also won’t incur the extra costs of having to find accommodation near the college during term time or commuting to class. Don’t worry; you can still build good relationships with your tutors and other students on your cohort – you’ll just be doing so virtually. Plus, this type of learning is far more common these days, so colleges have plenty of support services up and running to help you out if you need it.
Can I study for a post-MSN nursing certificate when I have family commitments?
A lot of nurses are dissuaded from doing further courses after their MSN because they have family obligations and other commitments. Rest assured that it’s perfectly possible to juggle a Post-Master’s nursing certificate with your family life – you just need to approach the task in a logical and organized way.
Some tactics that can be helpful include:
- Keeping careful track of all the deadlines for your reading and other assignments. Doing so will enable you to stay on top of your school work and plan a way to fit it around your family obligations
- Get your family and friends on board! Let them know you intend to take a certificate and ask if they’d be willing to help you out – for example, this could be by watching the kids on nights when you’re working on essays or revising
- Make the most of college support services. They’re there to help you! Lots of universities also have social groups for mature students and students who are parents, so be sure to join those in order to make friends, swap tips, and offer each other moral support
- Set aside time for self-care. It might seem counter-intuitive when you already have so much going on, but even taking five minutes out can be a great way to deal with stress and look after your mental health. Whether it’s meditation, a hot bath or journaling, find a method that works for you and maintain the habit throughout your studies
How can I prepare for my Post-Master’s nursing certificate?
If you’ve decided that a post-MSN certificate is the right option for you, there are lots of steps you can take now to help you get ready for the course. Here are some top tips:
- Set up a dedicated study area where you can get your work done in comfort – and in peace and quiet. Ideally, you want a desk with plenty of space for your books, laptop and stationery, plus good lighting so you don’t strain your eyes. An ergonomic office chair is also a must in order to protect your back.
- Start reading about the subject before the start of the semester. This will help lay the groundwork for what you’re going to study and prevent you from getting overwhelmed in class. You can do this by requesting a reading list from your college or finding some relevant journals and web content on your own.
- If you’re choosing an online certification but have never undertaken distance learning before, it can be helpful to enrol on a short internet course beforehand. This will give you a feel for how they work, what kind of software you might be using, and how you can get the most out of this education style. It doesn’t have to be a nursing course necessarily, although that will ensure you get the maximum benefit from the effort.
- Take a look at some blogs and videos from other people who are either currently studying a Post-Master’s nursing certificate or have recently graduated from one. This will give you a firsthand account of what the experience is like, plus some specific tips on how to succeed. If you can find someone from the college you’re intending to enrol with, all the better!