Essential Nursing Skills for MSN Students

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A nurse practitioner reads a patient’s chart with another nurse.For aspiring nurse practitioners, a projected 52% increase in job opportunities bodes well — especially compared with the anticipated demand for jobs in all fields. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates a 4% increase in job opportunities across the board from 2019 to 2029.

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), including nurse practitioners (NPs), are in demand. Contributing to the strong job outlook for APRNs are retiring nurses, an aging population and practitioner burnout, as well as increasing calls for the holistic, cost-effective care that advanced practice nurses typically offer.

Earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is a key step toward helping fill the growing need for leaders in this field. Individuals who are ready to advance their nursing career while helping to meet the increasing demand for nursing leaders should consider pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing. Some key nursing skills can help ensure success in this degree program — and help put students on the path to excelling as an APRN.

Key Skills for Students Pursuing a Master’s Degree

Tackling the demands of master’s-level studies, often while holding down a full-time job, calls on key skills that can increase the likelihood of success. Among the skills and aptitudes beneficial for master’s degree students are:

  • Time management — avoiding procrastination and navigating assignment due dates, class times and other commitments
  • Determination — focusing on completing the work regardless of any obstacles that arise
  • Willingness to learn — staying engaged and open to new ideas and approaches
  • Resourcefulness — taking advantage of ways to seek help from faculty members and classmates
  • Career-minded approach — participating in workshops and other events related to advancing the job search
  • Writing — communicating clearly in written assignments
  • Problem-solving — anticipating issues and developing potential solutions for them

Skills for Online Master’s Students

Students pursuing an online master’s degree need skills that allow them to navigate the demands of graduate-level learning from a remote setting. To excel in an online master’s degree program, students should be adept at using technological tools, including those that allow for videoconferencing and interacting and conducting research electronically.

Online master’s students should also be focused enough to tune out any distractions that learning from home might bring, including family and work interruptions.

Nursing Skills for MSN Success

In addition to general skills that are helpful for all master’s students, specific aptitudes and practices are important for MSN students. APRNs typically provide many of the same services as medical doctors, coordinating patient care and delivering primary and specialty health care.

MSN training is important in developing the expertise required of APRNs, including skills related to diagnosing, treating and preventing health issues. Nursing skills beneficial to MSN students include the following:

  • Ability to prioritize — taking on tasks ranging from coursework to clinical commitments as needed while juggling other demands
  • Critical thinking — making careful decisions regarding everything from answering test questions to the best ways to address a patient’s symptoms, from fever to chest pains
  • Curiosity — exploring new health care discoveries and approaches to treatment, including those for emerging issues, such as COVID-19
  • Collaboration — working well with others, such as students in study groups or other health care professionals in clinical work

Specialization for MSN Students

Nursing students should have a strong background in generalized science, math and technology subjects. Additionally, because NPs typically work with a specific patient population, those pursuing an MSN should also be willing to specialize in areas of advanced nursing practice.

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs), for example, assess, diagnose and treat various health conditions for individuals and families. On the other hand, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) focus on the mental health concerns of individuals, families and groups.

Critical Skills for Advanced Practice Nurses

Successful MSN students develop skills that APRNs — including NPs — need as they treat diverse patient groups for a wide variety of health concerns. Those include quantifiable hard skills that apply specifically to that job, as well as soft skills (general skills related to how someone interacts with others).

In fact, many of the same nursing skills that are essential for master’s students are important for MSN graduates working as APRNs.

Hard Skills for APRNs

Advanced practice nurses require skills that allow them to promote disease prevention and health management while also treating medical conditions. Among the hard skills advanced nursing professionals need are those related to:

  • Diagnosing illness
  • Prescribing medication
  • Encouraging preventive care
  • Managing chronic illness
  • Working collaboratively or independently
  • Practicing in a clinical setting
  • Adhering to hygiene and safety standards
  • Being familiar with the latest treatment methods

Soft Skills for APRNs

For advanced practice nursing, soft skills that promote clear communication and compassion are key. The soft skills APRNs need involve:

  • Leadership — directing patient care, including managing the work of other nursing professionals
  • Time management — ensuring the timely administration of medications and evaluations
  • Attention to detail — observing patients’ conditions and carefully developing and directing treatment plans
  • Communication — conveying information about patients’ conditions to those patients, their loved ones and other health care professionals to ensure appropriate care
  • Compassion — showing concern and sympathy when addressing patients and families about patients’ conditions and care
  • Resourcefulness — understanding the appropriate channels for finding the answers needed to provide high-quality care

Sharpen Your Nursing Skills with an MSN

If you’re looking to enhance your nursing skills and prepare for a leadership role in an in-demand profession, explore the University of North Dakota’s online Master of Science in Nursing program. It will equip you with the skills and expertise needed to succeed in an advanced nursing role such as an NP.

The program focuses on preparing nursing leaders who work to improve the health of diverse populations. It also offers this important training with the convenience and flexibility of an online program. Discover how the University of North Dakota’s online MSN program can help you advance your nursing career.


Recommended Readings

FNP vs. PNP: Comparing Nursing Career Paths

Nurse Practitioner vs. RN: What’s the Difference?

What Kind of Nurse Should I Be? Exploring Nurse Specialties


American Association of Nurse Practitioners, What’s a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?

American Enterprise Institute, “Nurse Practitioners: A Solution to America’s Primary Care Crisis”

American Nurse Journal, “School Skills: What Successful Nursing Students Do”

Assessment Technologies Institute, 7 Characteristics of a Successful Nursing Student

Elsevier Education, “The Importance of ‘Soft Skills’ in Nursing and Health Care Professions”

Indeed, 5 Must-Have Skills for Your Nursing Resume

Resume Genius, “26 Nursing Skills for Your Resume: List + Examples”

The Balance Careers, “What Does a Nurse Practitioner (NP) Do?”

The Chronicle of Higher Education, “10 Tips to Help You ‘Win’ at Graduate School”

ThoughtCo, “10 Ways to Be a Successful Online Student”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners