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I already went back to school but to give you a working APN's perspective:
I was an RN for 14 years when I completed my APN training. I however, did it very piecemeal and wish that I had done it differently:
Our hospital went Magnet status in 2002 so I knew I needed to complete my BSN. I did that easily enough via University of Phoenix. When I finished that in 2004 I went straight into the MSN program at UofP. At the time, UofP did not have any APN tracks so I did management and leadership. I went back to my hospital's college of nursing in 2005 and did my first post-MSN adult health CNS. Then in 2006, I started working as an APN.
In 2009 I decided that I had better complete my peds CNS so that I would have more opportunities. So I completed it in 2010.
Then in 2011, two big things happened: the ANCC announced they were going to "retire" the adult health CNS certificate and my practice stopped seeing pediatric patients.
So, in the end, I'm scrounging to see if I can make the 1000 hour work committment to continue to re-certify my peds CNS (looks like I'm just going to have to retest) and I must always, always keep the adult CNS up to date because if that certification lapses, I can't retest (as the test no longer exists).
In the end, I'm telling my story (and admitting to my educational errors) in hopes you don't repeat them.
TraumaRus, I know you feel you made some less-than-ideal choices about your grad education, but nobody can know the future, of the economy or of decisions by the ANCC or the AACN. There will always be value in a MSN degree, or a doctorate degree. I am learning here that flexibility is key and that continuing education is more important than ever.
Why am I going back to school? I always wanted to, and there were always barriers. Then I decided I wanted to take an advanced patho or pharm class. So I called around, and the colleges were like, you can't just do that...but we'd be happy to take your grad school application. I needed stats, and the community college had it at a time that I could totally take it, starting in a month. I realized that getting letters of reference wasn't such a big deal. And then I realized that all the "barriers" had just been inside me that whole time.
I'm doing Adult-geriatric CNS at Marquette University.
I always wanted a MSN ever since I was in school for my BSN. I did not know what for at that time. I always presumed NP. Graduate school costs a lot of money so before I took the leap I wanted to be certain. I felt this is the right time to do it. I am happy in my job I have now. I felt mentally ready to go back to school and my personal life supports it.
I am going back to school for CNS not NP. After a few years of working in the hospital I had come to the conclusion that I have no desire to have that level of responsibility. I wanted to advance in the role of nursing, learn a new set of skills, and support other nurses. The best choice for a MSN that supports these three criteria is the CNS. I looked into the CNS role and read about the spheres of influence and that was it. I knew where I belonged.
I am truly happy and grateful to be going to graduate school. It is a real blessing. My advice to you is not to rush going to graduate school. Make sure you know what you want. I could have made a mistake several years ago jumping into grad school. Especially during the times when I was tired of my job and felt like I wanted to get away but I am glad I didn't.
I knew I was ready to go back to school when I wanted to do more and have more control over my practice. I had planned on becoming a CRNA when I started in the ICU as a new grad but as I developed as a critical care RN, the more I fell in love with critical care. I like solving the puzzle. So I applied to several ACNP programs and here I am, finishing the 2nd semester of an ACNP program.
*BTW*, hey suz, I don't think it is acceptable that advanced practice RNs are expected to be "flexible" and amenable to what ever the AACN or ANCC decides on a whim. We're always comparing ourselves to other professionals, but guess what? A lawyer will always be a lawyer & a physician will always be a physician. Their certification and education requirements do not change like the wind, especially without giving their professionals a clear cut way to meet the new requirements.