Is CNS masters program a bad idea for regular RN on hospital floor?

  1. I come from a non nursing background and i just want to become an RN in a hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area as soon as possible. The cheapest option in my area may be an Clinical Nurse Specialist MSN degree at SF State. But will this degree actually prevent me from getting a regular RN job, say in L&D? They offer a women's health specialty.

    I am also planning to apply to an ABSN program and a CNL masters program. I just want to be a nurse and want to do it as quickly and cost efficiently as possible. The CNL MSN at USF takes LESS time than completing a BSN as a transfer student (2 years instead of 3 years), and the SF State CNS MSN costs less than the Samuel Merritt ABSN, and you get both a BSN and an MSN.

    I don't want to be an advanced practitioner at this time, I just want to be a regular RN on the hospital floor. Given that, is a CNS Masters program a bad idea? Will i not be able to get a regular RN job with this degree?? any insight is welcome. Thanks!
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  2. 51 Comments

  3. by   Boomer MS, RN
    Quote from Natalie513
    I come from a non nursing background and i just want to become an RN in a hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area as soon as possible. The cheapest option in my area may be an Clinical Nurse Specialist MSN degree at SF State. But will this degree actually prevent me from getting a regular RN job, say in L&D? They offer a women's health specialty. I am also planning to apply to an ABSN program and a CNL masters program. I just want to be a nurse and want to do it as quickly and cost efficiently as possible. The CNL MSN at USF takes LESS time than completing a BSN as a transfer student (2 years instead of 3 years), and the SF State CNS MSN costs less than the Samuel Merritt ABSN, and you get both a BSN and an MSN. I don't want to be an advanced practitioner at this time, I just want to be a regular RN on the hospital floor. Given that, is a CNS Masters program a bad idea? Will i not be able to get a regular RN job with this degree?? any insight is welcome. Thanks!
    Natalie513, I did a CNS program at UCSF, so I am knowledgeable about your questions. To become a CNS, your must be a nurse first (BSN) and then apply to graduate school, unless you do a direct entry master's program. I am not familiar with SF State's program, but a CNS is a clinical expert in an Advanced Practice role. Practicing in an Advanced Practice role means you must have experience. The CNL role is NOT, and I repeat NOT, a CNS. A CNL is a generalist with a master's in nursing, most often, but not always, awarded through a direct entry master's program. Those programs have to satisfy the CA BON requirements, so the students take pre-licensure courses that satisfy the Board. (I already had those courses in my BSN program.) I have looked at the curriculum at two CA CNL programs, and the courses are not all the same as the courses as those for the CNS program. If you do a direct entry CNL program, say at SF State, you will graduate like any other new graduate with no experience. Perhaps you have heard that those who already have a bachelor's in another disciple do this. And yes, if you can find a job on an L&D unit as a new grad, you can work as a staff nurse with a master's. You can work at the bedside with a master's, a PhD or a DNP! I am not a fan of the CNL direct entry programs at all, but that's another story. Samuel Merritt is expensive, I know. The issue I see over and over is that prospective students can be short sighted. If you think you might ever want to go on to an advanced practice role, I strongly advise getting a BSN. If you do the direct entry CNL, you cannot become a CNS or an NP without more education. And for example, if I wanted to be an NP, I would have to return to school for another year, 12 months, to meet the requirements.

    This has been long winded, but hopefully you understand that you can become an RN via several ways. UCSF does have a direct entry CNS program for some specialities (called MEPN), but it is extremely competitive there for MEPN students. If, as you say, you can get BSN and a master's preparing you for a CNS role with no experience from SF State, I am dumbfounded. I suspect you mean CNL, but I may be wrong. I don't think you can go wrong with SF State or Samuel Merritt, both fine institutions. UCSF's MEPN program does not award a BSN, only a master's.
    Last edit by Boomer MS, RN on Jun 3, '16
  4. by   Here.I.Stand
    So the CNL program is entry level masters? I'm not familiar with CA at all, but my concern job-wise is that you'd be expensive (bc of the advanced degree), yet as novice as any other new grad. I'd think the ABSN would be the better option...maybe someone else from CA can chime in if I'm incorrect
  5. by   Here.I.Stand
    Good info...we must have been typing at rhe same time.
  6. by   Boomer MS, RN
    Quote from Here.I.Stand
    Good info...we must have been typing at rhe same time.

    Must have been! :-))
  7. by   Natalie513
    Thank you! Yes, there are two Entry Level MSN programs I am thinking of applying to:

    SF STATE: This entry level MSN DOES prepare you as a CNS. You can become a CNS in adult, women's health, or pediatric specialties. You earn both a BSN and an MSN over the course of 2 years. Here is the link to the program. Accelerated Entry Level Master of Science in Nursing (ELM-A) - School of Nursing - San Francisco State University

    USF: This is the CNL program. You earn a MSN in 2 years that prepares you for the CNL role.

    SAMUEL MERRITT: This is the ABSN program. It is 12 months but extremely expensive.

    So is it a bad idea to apply to the USF and SF State MSN programs??? My dilemma is that I would find out if i got into the USF and State programs before the Samuel Merritt application is even due!!! The MSN programs both start in January with apps due Sept 1, and the Samuel Merritt ABSN starts in April, with app due Dec 1.

    Again, I just want to be a regular floor RN. My other concern with the Samuel Merritt ABSN was that it might be too crazy since I have two young kids. But i think we can make it work with my husband's schedule. Should i not even apply to SF State and USF??? Help please! Thank you!!!!!
  8. by   Natalie513
    Hi Boomer, i tried to post earlier but i'm not sure if it worked.

    Yes, the SF State Entry Level Masters is for a Clinical Nurse Specialist role. They offer adult, women's health, and pediatric specialties. you earn a BSN and an MSN. Here is a link to the program: Accelerated Entry Level Master of Science in Nursing (ELM-A) - School of Nursing - San Francisco State University

    The USF entry level masters is for a CNL role.

    The Samuel Merritt is the ABSN.

    Here is the dilemma i am facing: If i apply to the two entry level masters, i would find out if i got in before the samuel merritt ABSN application is even due! The masters apps are due Sept 1 for a January start date. The Samuel Merritt ABSN app is due Dec 1 for an April start date. So should I just forget about the masters programs if i just want to be a floor RN??? will no one hire me with an MSN because i'm too expensive??? now i feel terrible because i already asked my professors for letters of recommendation for the USF application! I would LOVE some advise on what I should do, i am feeling lost. Thanks to everyone for their insight!
  9. by   NewMurse1014
    I had a BS degree in Human Biology before entering SMU's ABSN program. Took my a year to complete the pre-reqs and applying to the school, went through the program, and took me about half a year to finally land a job here in Bay area. It's so competitive here that they only look at your application when you have the RN license ready, only a few of my classmates were able to secure a position before their NCLEX (I got the interim permit and tried to look for jobs that accept it, but turns out it was a waste of money). Now I'm 7 months into my new grad position and I've almost earned my tuition back.
    I understand that SMU is very expensive, but their ABSN program is only 12 months (I believe it's the fastest ABSN in the Bay Area but I could be wrong), so you can get your BSN ASAP, pass the NCLEX, and start looking for a floor nurse job. If that's what you want to do for now, I would suggest going this route and get it done ASAP. You can always get your masters in APN when you decide to, even with tuition reimbursement from your employer to save some money. I could be biased for obvious reasons but it's just my 2 cents.
  10. by   TheCommuter
    Thread has been moved to the CNS forum for more replies.
  11. by   pennccrn
    Well said, Boomer. I'm also a CNS grad from UCSF and would like to echo Boomer's comments. I'm also faculty in UCSF's MEPN program so I can give you more info if you want but Boomer was spot on. CNLs are not advanced practice they are designed for entry-level nurses in concentrating on a leadership role. Generally speaking, it is an expectation for CNS students to have experience in their speciality. If the BSN is indeed more expensive than a MSN I would do the CNL since many new grads do this. But again if you wanted to do advanced practice you'd have to return to school for a post-masters or second masters degree. I imagine SFSU is less expensive since it's a public school and your qualify for in-state tuition. Id recommend checking other BSN programs in the area just to make sure. Also I'm not sure if you have a bachelors in another field but that's usually a requirement for many of the combined BSN/MSN. Alternatively, you could always do an ADN if you have a bachelors although it might limit your search a bit since Magnet hospitals prefer BSNs.
  12. by   Boomer MS, RN
    Quote from Natalie513
    Hi Boomer, i tried to post earlier but i'm not sure if it worked.

    Yes, the SF State Entry Level Masters is for a Clinical Nurse Specialist role. They offer adult, women's health, and pediatric specialties. you earn a BSN and an MSN. Here is a link to the program: Accelerated Entry Level Master of Science in Nursing (ELM-A) - School of Nursing - San Francisco State University

    The USF entry level masters is for a CNL role.

    The Samuel Merritt is the ABSN.

    Here is the dilemma i am facing: If i apply to the two entry level masters, i would find out if i got in before the samuel merritt ABSN application is even due! The masters apps are due Sept 1 for a January start date. The Samuel Merritt ABSN app is due Dec 1 for an April start date. So should I just forget about the masters programs if i just want to be a floor RN??? will no one hire me with an MSN because i'm too expensive??? now i feel terrible because i already asked my professors for letters of recommendation for the USF application! I would LOVE some advise on what I should do, i am feeling lost. Thanks to everyone for their insight!
    I stand corrected about SFSU and the CNS option as direct entry. A total of two years? Not long enough, IMO. Knowing what I know about the CNS role, I would not choose SFSU for CNS as you have described above. But perhaps it would work for you to apply to the CNL option at SFSU. It is impossible, in my opinion, to be adequately prepared for in a CNS position under the program SFSU is offering. It is hard enough to transition into a CNS role as an experienced nurse. I understand that UCSF now requires some MEPN students to step out for a year and work before returning to graduate CNS studies. You get experience when you are out working. You don't in school. To answer one of your questions, it is not that no one will hire you b/c you have a master's and are more expensive. All new grads get paid at entry level wages. No one cares if you have a master's, and most employers pay the staff nurses the same hourly wages whether you have an ADN, a BSN or a master's; sometimes this depends on the union contract (if there is a union) re: what degree you have, but that's another issue too!

    So, I'm thinking you do have a bachelor's in another discipline. So right now you are thinking that your goals and passion are limited to floor nursing, which is terrific. But you might change your mind later. What I'm saying is to think a little further ahead. I appreciate that you are juggling many balls, especially with a young family. Please don't feel guilty about asking for letters of recommendation. If you get into USF's direct entry CNL program and can afford it, I say go for it. Good school. You want to be prepared when you graduate. I am critical of today's programs b/c new nurses seem to struggle transitioning into staff nursing. I had much more clinical time in my BSN program. I still recommend a BSN, but I truly understand your dilemma. A 12-month ABSN (Samuel Merritt) is very tough b/c it is only 12 months, instead of 15 months, which I prefer. But whatever route you choose is going to be hard. I also advise yo to look into other BSN programs in the bay area: San Jose State, Dominican University, a private school so it will be expensive.


    It all doable! I was so discouraged when I saw the course work load at UCSF CNS graduate program. If you want it badly enough...

    I am going to check out the link to SFSU direct entry CNS program. Thank you.

    Best wishes.
  13. by   Natalie513
    Thank you, Boomer! Yes, i have a BA and a JD. Nursing is a second career for me. I have already wasted so much time and money on law school, that I just want to get on with my new career as quickly as possible and as cost efficiently as possible. I would REALLY like to be working as soon as I can be. Overall, i want to do what will give me the BEST chance of securing a job as a floor nurse at a hospital in san francisco. I was attracted to the SF State program because it offered a BSN and an MSN in only two years, for less than the cost of the ABSN at samuel merritt. but i do not want to be a CNS. SJSU is too far away with my kids' schedules, and Dominican is so expensive i would rather just do the samuel merritt and get it over with in a year. I feel like i am going around in circles and i wish i could figure out what is best!!! the USF program looks great, but i also do not want to work as a CNL, and i am wary about spending so much money AND time on one program. i wish i could just apply to all three and weigh my options if and when i get in, but i would hear back from the MSN programs long before samuel merritt, so i feel like i need to decide what my first choice is before i waste time applying to the MSNs. I really appreciate people's insight on this topic!!
  14. by   Boomer MS, RN
    Quote from Natalie513
    Thank you, Boomer! Yes, i have a BA and a JD. Nursing is a second career for me. I have already wasted so much time and money on law school, that I just want to get on with my new career as quickly as possible and as cost efficiently as possible. I would REALLY like to be working as soon as I can be. Overall, i want to do what will give me the BEST chance of securing a job as a floor nurse at a hospital in san francisco. I was attracted to the SF State program because it offered a BSN and an MSN in only two years, for less than the cost of the ABSN at samuel merritt. but i do not want to be a CNS. SJSU is too far away with my kids' schedules, and Dominican is so expensive i would rather just do the samuel merritt and get it over with in a year. I feel like i am going around in circles and i wish i could figure out what is best!!! the USF program looks great, but i also do not want to work as a CNL, and i am wary about spending so much money AND time on one program. i wish i could just apply to all three and weigh my options if and when i get in, but i would hear back from the MSN programs long before samuel merritt, so i feel like i need to decide what my first choice is before i waste time applying to the MSNs. I really appreciate people's insight on this topic!!
    Natalie,

    You are well educated and well rounded. Congratulations. I think that you might have an advantage being accepted to programs with your previous degrees. I don't know for sure as I have never sat on an admissions or interview committee. If you graduate from a CNL program, you do not have to function in a CNL role. (Still not sure what a "CNL" does.) So no worries there. Anecdotally I know someone who was in the BSN program at USF, decided to switch to the direct entry CNL program at USF, graduated and has worked for several years at UCSF in L&D as a staff nurse. I did look at the link for the two year direct CNS program at SFSU. For the life of me, I cannot comprehend how thier graduates could function as CNSs. UCSF has some direct entry CNS programs, but they are three years, not two. I can see how you are attracted to a program that awards a BSN and a master's, but again, the CNS part throws me at SFSU. You may not care b/c all you want to do is work as a staff nurse starting out, which I applaud. Does SFSU still have a CNL direct entry program? If so, that would be better b/c those programs are basically undergrad programs with some graduate level courses thrown in. At least that is what I determined when I looked at some CNL curriculum. Perhaps SFSU has abandoned the CNL programs for the reasons that the CNL role has not flourished, and new grads were not getting jobs as CNLs. I know in my area no one did (Direct entry CNL program at Sonoma State which is now abandoned) b/c hospitals did not have any jobs listed as such for the CNL. Those CNL grads entered the work force as new grads, just like any other new grad.

    I'm voting for Samuel Merrit's ABSN for you. Ha! Easy for me to say. It's only a year, with both pros and cons. You are not wasting money investing in the good programs that you are considering. There is no nursing shortage at the moment, but I believe that is going to continue to change. New grads are getting jobs, even if it takes a while. The older nurses, many who put off retirement or went back to work when the economy tanked, have got to retire sometime! I am not sure there is an answer to what program will give you the "BEST chance of securing a job as a floor nurse in SF".

    I wish you the very best. Something will work out for you; I am sure of that.

    Boomer

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