According to the Alaska Board of Nursing, over eight percent of Alaska's RNs have an MSN and another 20 percent plan to get one in the near future. Most nurses with an MSN are in advanced-practice specialties, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, but the demand for MSN-prepared nurses is expected to rise for almost every other specialty including education, research, policy making, and leadership roles.
The large, sparsely-populated state of Alaska has a unique range of health care needs that can often only be met by nurses and advanced nursing professionals. Alaska has many remote rural communities that have little or no access to health care, increasing the demand for health care professionals across the state. Culturally-sensitive care is a crucial part of working as an advanced practice nurse in this state. The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that 14.8 percent of the state's population is American Indian or Alaska Native, a rate that's more than 10 times higher than the national average.
Master's in Nursing Programs in Alaska
As you look into nursing schools in Alaska, you may wish to consider the many program options available to you. Popular choices in this state include nursing education, nurse practitioner, and health care administration. Request information from the schools that offer the Master's in Nursing programs you are interested in to learn more.
Keep in mind that many of these programs have clinical requirements you must meet. If you want to become a family nurse practitioner or mental health nurse practitioner, plan on completing over 800 clinical hours throughout the course of your education. Nursing education tends to require one or two semesters of practicum, in which you teach lower-level nursing courses.
While working through the two to four years of school required for a Master's degree in nursing, you may tackle a number of learning outcomes and goals set forth by your program. You may be expected to learn how to read and utilize nursing research, how to use current evidence to determine the best course of action with patients, and how to use various diagnostic tools that can be used in the exam room. Your instructors may also expect you to develop a strong sense of leadership, which can serve you well in a range of health care institutions.
Admissions requirements can be fairly rigorous, as an MSN degree is a demanding degree that requires intensive study. Many schools require prospective students to have a Bachelor's degree in nursing, but there may be RN to MSN options that allow you to move directly from an Associate's degree in nursing to a Master's degree in nursing.
Alaska is home to a great variety of scholarship and loan repayment programs. The need-based Kara Simon Memorial Nursing Scholarship, available through the University of Alaska-Anchorage, is open to students taking at least six credits per semester. The Alaska Nurses Association awards the David E. Knox Nursing Scholarship. If you are willing to work in a medically-underserved area, the Alaska SHARP program may be a good way to pay off your student loans.
Programs to consider:
University of Alaska-Anchorage (Anchorage, AK). UAA has a part-time or full-time MSN program available in such concentrations as family NP, psychiatric/mental health NP, and education.
Western Governor's University (online program). This exclusively online university was founded in 1995 by the governors of 19 states, including Alaska. The MSN program offers concentrations such as education and management.
Practicing Nursing in Alaska with a Master's Degree
Nurse practitioners in particular are a strong force in Alaska. The Kaiser Foundation found that Alaska employs more than 730 NP. A great need persists, however, for NPs in rural areas of the state, and the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association reports an especially high vacancy rate (37.4 percent) for pediatric nurse practitioners. For more information check out the Alaska Nurse Practitioner Association, Alaska Board of Nursing, and Alaska Nurses Association.
Going into nursing in Alaska with your MSN may reward you with a higher-than-average salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that nurse practitioners in Alaska earn an average salary of $111,800 per year. The statewide median salary for nursing instructors is $78,030 per year (BLS, 2013). Health services managers earn an average of $111,600 each year (BLS, 2013).
If you wish to become a nurse practitioner that cares for patients of all ages, there may be many job opportunities available to you. The Alaska Division of Public Health reports that many parts of Alaska have primary care practitioner shortages. Since nurse practitioners in this state have full practice rights, completing a Master's degree in this specialty may permit you to serve an underserved community independently.
Take some time to review MSN programs in Alaska, then submit a request for information to get program materials and speak with admissions representatives.