MSN Programs Continue to Roll-Out at Universities to Meet Primary Care Shortages; Indiana University Northwest is the Latest to Add a Program

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Reviewed by Abbie Jacobs, RN, BSN

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts that over the next decade, the shortage in physicians will grow to between 61,700 and 94,700. The growing need for primary care professionals has prompted universities to offer master’s in nursing programs to prepare APRNs in an effort to combat the imminent shortages.

Indiana University Northwest is one of the colleges meeting the primary care challenge head on by rolling out its new family nurse practitioner Master of Science degree. The university is accepting applications until April 1, 2017 and will admit only 15 students in its inaugural program.

The role of a nurse practitioner has changed and grown over the years to encompass a much wider range of specialties and an increased level of practice privileges in many states, while the general focus is still on providing quality preventative care. MSN programs prepare students to learn to diagnose illnesses, request diagnostic testing and prescribe necessary medicines to treat patients.

Ellen Hennessey-Harstad, nurse practitioner and an associate clinical professor at the university, said that the role of the nurse practitioner often crosses over into what is more commonly thought of as the physician’s role.

Nurse practitioners are now taking over many of the traditional duties of the physician and becoming an integral piece of the family health care network, particularly in rural areas. “There’s a big demand for nurse practitioners in the rural communities,” said Hennessy-Harstad. The physician shortage is so noticeable in these under-served areas, that many people visit nurse practitioners exclusively for their medical care.

The job growth for nurse practitioners is expected to continue at a rate of 31 percent through 2024 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Indiana University Northwest’s MSN program requires 42 credit hours along with a total of 600 clinical service hours. It is structured to be completed within seven semesters with classes meeting once per week.

The university plans to add additional MSN programs in the future.