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MSN Practicum and Project

Rather than doing a thesis, our MSN students complete “hands-on” leadership projects making for improved patient results and health system management.

Why 378 hours in MSN practicum?

Practicum courses involve about 8 hours a week to be spent at the practicum site, with a nurse manager or leader, who acts as your mentor. Multiply eight hours/week times 15 weeks/semester x 2 semesters (Fall and Spring) to arrive at a total of 240 hours. Next, add the results of 8 hours/week X 6 weeks/Summer semester (48 hours) to the 240 hours to equal 288 hours of practicum time.

Two hours a week are also given to things you work on in the N790 Leadership Project course each week or about 30 hours a semester. These 30 hours are given in each of the three semesters that in which you complete the N790 course for a total of 90 hours towards practicum; however we all know you will spend much more time than that on your MSN Leadership project.

Ninety hours from your project and 288 hours in practicum during the three semesters of the academic year (Fall, Spring and Summer) equals the 378 required hours that need to be completed in the practicum courses and to graduate.

Note: Graduate courses expect 3 hours a week of work for each credit taken.  Each of the three MSN practicum courses held in Fall, Spring and Summer are worth 2 credits.  Multiply 2 credits times 3 hours a week to equal the 6 hours a week requirement of work outside of the time you read the lectures in this course. You will be busy!

Also note, some students may want to accrue more than 378 practicum hours, as some Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs require 500 post-baccalaureate practicum hours. Check individual DNP programs for specifics.

What are the practicum courses about?

Fall Semester: NURS 770 Practicum I: Leadership Practices in Health Systems (2 credits)

In this course, students will apply best practices related to evidence-based quality and safety decisions in their practicum site. Local and national drivers of safety and quality initiatives, along with oversight of these programs, will be explored. Benchmarking and statistical process control methods will be emphasized to ensure appropriate leadership decisions. Required MSN practicum hours will be satisfactorily completed.

Practicum hours are spent with the mentor in the practicum site beginning to assimilate to the nursing leader or manager role, while integrating the knowledge, skills and attitudes learned in the didactic MSN courses into the leader/manager role in the practicum site.

Spring Semester: NURS 772 Practicum II: Change, Culture and Communication in Health Systems (2 credits)

This course will provide a structured experience for exploration of nursing leadership and management roles in health care systems. Emphasis will be placed on change management, use of information systems, financial reimbursement models, exploration of organizational culture and the development of professional communication skills. Required MSN practicum hours will be satisfactorily completed.

Practicum hours are spent advancing your leadership and management skills in practice in the practicum site.

Summer Semester: NURS 774 Practicum III: Transition to Leadership Role in Health Systems (2 credits)

This course will explore aspects of role transition to nursing leadership and management. Discussion and debate will be used to highlight transition and survival issues. Remaining required MSN practicum hours will be satisfactorily completed.

Practicum hours are spent working independently (with your mentor's oversight) as a nurse leader and manager in the practicum site.

How to determine the best practicum site?

It is BEST to complete your practicum in an area that interests you, as often practicum placements can lead to future employment offers. It is also important to consider practicum sites in areas or health systems with which you are unfamiliar, as it is in stretching beyond your comfort zone that some of the most insightful learning occurs. A staff nurse in informatics, for example may want to explore management and leadership in the ICU.

Another option is to complete your practicum at your current employer, but NOT in your current department or role. For example, a student working in a hospital on the orthopedic floor as a staff nurse, can easily complete practicum with a nurse manager in the emergency room or primary care clinic in the same health system. In an another example, a nurse manager in a public health nursing department can complete practicum hours with the administrator of another health and human services division.

What are the attributes of a good mentor?

  • Master's degree prepared leader or manager in a health system (preferably a nurse)
  • Interest in mentoring a student (just ask!)
  • Willing to commit to 8 hours a week with a student over three consecutive semesters (Fall, Spring and Summer)
  • Leadership style the same as or different from your own leadership style (as much can be learned from each)
  • Willing to share leadership project ideas from within their health system as potential leadership projects for you

How can I be a good mentee during practicum?

  • Write and work towards individual goals each semester with your instructors and mentor, focusing on the leadership and management areas of weakness you identify in yourself
  • Review this document from the Wisconsin Nurse Organization of Nurse Executives called Mentoring Guide for Proteges
  • Be professional, on time, courteous, willing to learn and respectful of your mentor, patients and the health system, no matter how big or small or different or the same it may be compared to your work site.

What is the MSN Leadership Project?

The MSN Leadership project culminates the knowledge, skills and attitudes learned in all didactic and practicum MSN courses. It must have a leadership and quality improvement focus. It can be completed in the practicum site or within another health system and must be based on needs identified in the practicum site or health system from data, benchmarks or guidelines. The MSN Leadership project will be designed, implemented, and analyzed according to the literature and evidence based practice.

In the 1 credit NURS 790 MSN Leadership Project course, you will be guided by the Chair of your project with a small group of your peers through the steps to design, implement, analyze and professionally disseminate your project. You will be guided through the project by a project team comprised of:

  1. Your mentor (or another MSN prepared leader from the site of your project if NOT the practicum site)
  2. Your Chair (the instructor of your section of the N790 course) (See the Chairs' bios can be seen in short videos by clicking on the next arrow on this page in this course.)
  3. A content expert on the subject of your project

What is the project course about?

Fall, Spring, and Summer Semesters: NURS 790 MSN Leadership Project (1 credit; must be taken each of three final semesters simultaneously with practicum courses)

This course will provide students the opportunity to design, implement evaluate and disseminate an evidence-based leadership project within a health system. Projects will create quality and safety in patient care through nursing leadership, conscious of environmental responsibility and will demonstrate synthesis and application of MSN leadership and management curricular concepts. Requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes to become successful nurse leaders or managers in health systems will be exhibited in the project process. Master’s projects will be presented to peers, local stakeholders, and the student's project committee and summarized in a professional poster. This course must be taken three times over three semesters in the final year, in conjunction with the three MSN practicum courses. Required MSN practicum hours related to the project (90 total: 30 hours in each of 3 subsequent semesters) will be satisfactorily completed.