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What to Expect from the MSN Curriculum at Norwich University

Nursing: Healthcare Systems Leadership

The public often sees clinical practice as the cornerstone of nursing professions, but the nonclinical aspects of nursing care, such as technology or resource management, are equally important. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) curriculum at Norwich University helps students incorporate critical leadership skills into their knowledge base so they can effectively educate, organize, and lead their fellow nurses, as well as continue to deliver optimal patient care.

Critical Skills Acquired Through Norwich’s MSN Curriculum

With a master’s degree program that focuses on building nurse leaders and administrators, advanced practice nurses can support their clinical skills with management, strategy and administration coursework that can help qualify them for senior nurse leadership roles.

1. Organizational Leadership

The ability to build strong connections with colleagues is critical to effective nurse leadership, as fostering positive relationships among team members helps build a foundation of trust throughout the entire group. One way Norwich University prepares students to excel in this position is by providing them with the tools they will need to manage the clinical and administrative operations of nursing units. Additionally, the curriculum discusses how nurse leaders can stimulate the continual development of their employees’ skill sets using a mixed approach of offering them direct mentorship while actively encouraging employees to learn from each other whenever possible. By using leadership and management competencies like these, nurse leaders who have earned their degrees can organize their employees into a cohesive unit that collaborates effectively, thereby improving the overall performance of their organization.

2. Commitment-Based Management

The modern healthcare system benefits more from leaders and managers who leverage their human capital to come up with more efficient ways to get work done. By managing in a more empathetic, employee-centric manner, nurse leaders can influence their subordinates to commit to performing well in their work. With more commitment to their departments’ success, employees become better prepared to get involved in decision-making. Commitment-based management favors leading employees primarily through trust and confidence. This is represented by their ability to build strong relationships with their employees and clearly articulate their vision or specific objectives. These strong connections allow commitment-based managers to build teams that work, not only for their own success but for the success of their entire team.

3. Hospital Resource Management

Through the Norwich University MSN curriculum, students can learn how to efficiently allocate human and material resources throughout their organizations. Material resources typically include medicines, hygiene products, laboratory space and equipment, computers, maintenance services, food, and other medical supplies. Understanding the costs of these resources helps nurses understand the total cost attached to nursing services, thereby allowing them to make informed decisions about where and how to distribute these critical materials. Developing competency for human resource management helps nurse leaders ensure that their departments are fully staffed and that their employees are satisfied in their positions. All of these resources account for a large portion of costs in healthcare organizations; therefore, learning how to effectively manage them is essential to maintaining operational efficiency in nursing departments.

4. Versatility

The combination of the extreme shortage of experienced nurses working in the field and the steadily growing patient population is putting immense strain on global healthcare systems. For medical institutions, this talent shortage means there may not be enough staff available to perform crucial job duties, ultimately putting patients at risk. Completing an MSN degree is essential to mitigating the lack of qualified personnel, as graduates of an MSN program with a Nurse Education specialization, for example, can position themselves as vital mentors who help prepare more nurses to enter the field with a sound level of expertise. Alternatively, those who pursue Norwich University’s Health Care Systems Leadership specialization can work with healthcare institutions to maximize the impact of their available staff, and those with a Nursing Informatics specialization can learn how to ensure that their employers are getting the highest possible value from their technology.

5. Shared Decision-Making

The coursework in an MSN curriculum helps students learn to make informed decisions and improve communications using different methods, such as shared decision-making—a management technique that involves holding all nurses accountable for organizational decisions that may impact them. This approach allows departments to incorporate more perspectives into a decision before it is made, likely improving the outcome. By leveraging the thoughts and ideas of their teams, educated nurses can overcome the pressure created by the inherent complexity of making decisions in healthcare environments.

Technical Concepts Featured in an MSN Curriculum

In addition to the clinical subjects typically discussed at every level of nurse education, MSN students also learn different tools and technologies are used to improve efficiencies within nursing practice. These methodologies often involve learning how to navigate the platforms used to manage patient information.

Health Data Analytics

In Norwich University’s MSN program, students learn how to collect and process data, as well as how medical organizations use that data to improve operational efficiencies. These data can relate to any aspect of the organization. For instance, healthcare organizations analyze workforce productivity data to determine whether the appropriate number of workers is being assigned to a specific task. This analysis allows leaders to make schedule changes accordingly, ensuring that no department is over or understaffed. Likewise, if recorded data shows that one method of patient assessment routinely detects certain cancers much earlier than the alternative diagnostic procedures, nurse leaders can communicate that data to their colleagues to determine whether that method should be offered to patients more frequently. Thus, MSN coursework explores ways that health care organizations can use data to evaluate diagnostic processes and determine the efficacy of certain medical interventions.

Using Electronic Health Records and Other Health Information Technology

Health Information Technology (HIT) is constantly evolving, and nurses play an important role in that process. As they discover new areas of practice that can be improved by using technology, their insights are used to create new technological resources that can optimize certain aspects of healthcare practice. For example, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are systems that digitally store patients’ medical charts, including past diagnoses, prescribed medications, and treatment plans. This reduces paperwork, promotes effective diagnosis, and makes it possible to consolidate a patient’s complete medical history into a single location that is immediately accessible at the point of care.  Today, it would be difficult to find a modern hospital that hasn’t traded its paper charts in for EHR technology as a 2017 survey conducted by the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy found that 99% of US hospitals now use EHRs in some capacity.

The transition to EHRs was inevitable because this technology allows nurses and other medical professionals to seamlessly share accurate representations of the care each patient has received. With EHRs, nurse leaders face fewer obstacles when coordinating interdepartmental medical procedures that require coordinating their subordinates’ actions in collaboration with other health professionals, like doctors, who may even be in different medical institutions. At the moment EHRs may already be used in a vast majority of hospitals, but there is still much work to be done when it comes to developing and implementing standardized procedures for using EHRs. As this is still a relatively new technology, nurses, amongst other healthcare professionals, should still be exploring new ways they can improve healthcare practice using EHRs and other HIT.

Examples of Courses Featured in Norwich’s MSN Curriculum

Theoretical and Practical Foundations of Nursing Informatics

Nurses use vast amounts of digital information to make clinical decisions and draft health care policies. Senior nurses are responsible for making sure that the databases and computer networks that are designed for this purpose are of an acceptable quality, as well as fully compliant with governing ethical and regulatory standards. In this class, students learn how to apply information science to nursing practice. The coursework incorporates some theoretical knowledge but also focuses on technical, information technology-related skills, like project tracking and information systems management. To complement those skills, they also learn how information is used to inform models of care and what impact nursing informatics can have on the quality of nursing care.  This course is part of the Nursing Informatics concentration in Norwich’s Master of Science in Nursing program.

Curriculum and Instruction: Theory and Methods

The Norwich University MSN program also strives to teach student nurses how to educate their future students or employees. To that end, this course divulges the best method nurse leaders and educators can use to develop and teach the nursing curriculum. This involves an overview of the history of the nursing curriculum, as well as a dissection of related subjects, like how technology can be employed in educational settings and nursing curriculum evaluation.

Health Care Resource Management

To be effective in their roles, students must learn how to perform management processes that are unique to nursing leadership. One example is human resources management for nursing departments, which has become more burdensome in light of the current nursing shortage. In addition to human resource management, this course discusses technical processes, such as planning operations within clinical departments and preparing budgets to ensure that those departments are using financial resources efficiently. In the disaster management section of this course, students learn to prepare to lead a nursing department during crises that put added pressure on health care providers, such as natural disasters or epidemics. To round out the course, instructors share ways that practicing nurses can continually improve their effectiveness as leaders by practicing constant self-reflection as they confront the challenges and opportunities that come with managing large groups of health care employees.

While clinical expertise is essential to most nursing professions, nurses who have studied nurse leadership and administration at the advanced level will understand how to prevent nursing units from becoming disorganized or ineffective. Through their coursework, they learn how to accomplish this by planning, educating other nurses, managing resources, and defining a vision for their employees to work toward.  The Master of Science in Nursing program at Norwich University aims to cultivate educated nurse leaders who have the clinical experience and practical expertise to steer their teams toward consistently producing positive health care outcomes.

Norwich University Online Master of Science in Nursing Curriculum

Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities. The online Master of Science in Nursing at Norwich University aims to prepare students to become efficient and effective health care leaders. Learn more about Norwich’s online MSN course offerings here.

Recommended Readings

The Growing Demand for Experienced Nurse Educators

The Medical Internet of Things (IoMT)

How Nurse Leadership Can Help Prevent Ransomware Attacks


How nurses can encourage shared decision making, Nursing 2018

Benefits of EHRs, Health IT

Can Electronic Health Records Prevent Harm to Patients, Agency for Health Care Research and Technology

Using Data Analytics for Quality Outcomes, American Nursing Informatics Association

The impact of electronic health records on healthcare quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis, European Journal of Public Health

The role of a nurse in the management of medical-hospital material: an integrative review, Online Brazilian Journal of Nursing

Health Informatics, Survey Nearly All US Hospitals Use EHRs, CPOE systems


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