Nurses who are passionate about improving patient outcomes, reducing mortality rates and creating positive change in patient care methods and protocols may benefit from pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Patient Safety & Healthcare Quality degree. These advanced nursing degree programs prepare nurses to be leaders in patient safety and experts in evidence-based practices for reducing risk and improving healthcare outcomes for patients in hospitals, clinics and other healthcare settings. Graduates of these programs go on to careers that create positive change that will impact many patient lives. Career options for these nurses may include:

  • Patient Safety Officer
  • Director of Quality Management
  • Healthcare Risk Management Manager
  • Quality Improvement Coordinator

Which MSN in Patient Safety & Quality Program is Right for Me?

Once you have decided to pursue an MSN in Patient Safety & Quality, choosing the right program to suit your career goals is the next step. There are several elements to consider when researching schools, including:

  • Program Accreditation: A properly accredited nursing program will provide a quality education and prepare nurses for the next phase of their careers. Ensure that every program you consider is accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
  • Online vs. On Campus: MSN programs are offered in both traditional on campus formats as well as online "distance learning" and hybrid formats. For nurses working full-time, online programs that can be taken on a flexible schedule may provide a more convenient option than traditional programs.
  • Time Commitment: A typical MSN degree takes 2-3 years to complete. However, the time it takes to complete an MSN in Patient Safety & Quality can vary based on a number of factors, including whether a program is taken on a full- or part-time basis and how many clinical or on-campus hours are required to complete the program.
  • Program Cost: Cost of an MSN in Patient Safety & Quality program varies widely depending on the type of school, geographic location and a student's residency status. When researching schools, make sure to factor in the cost of materials, books and housing and/or commuting if necessary in addition to the tuition fees.

Advantages of Online MSN in Patient Safety & Quality Programs

Online MSN programs provide several advantages to students, particularly those who are working full-time while completing their advanced degrees. To name a few, these advantages include:

  • Flexible Schedule: For nurses working full- or part-time while taking MSN courses, a flexible class schedule is critical. Online programs often offer self-paced learning, meaning nurses can listen to lectures or complete coursework when it's convenient to them. For nurses who work nights, weekends, or holidays, flexible class schedules allow students to complete their degrees without impacting work or family obligations.
  • Lower Cost: Oftentimes, online programs are more cost-effective for students than traditional on campus MSN programs. While cost varies widely, students in online programs do not have to factor in commuting costs to the overall price tag of their education. Most schools also provide financial aid options for those who need assistance paying for their degrees.
  • Accessibility & Convenience: Especially important for those who live in rural or remote locations, online learning opens the door to a wider range of schools and program options. With online programs, students don't need to worry about the cost of commuting, traffic patterns or parking costs. And for students who need to study late at night, early in the morning or anytime in between, distance learning means nurses can complete coursework whenever and wherever it is convenient.
  • Faster Completion: With many programs that include self-paced learning, the MSN degree can be completed much faster than when taken as part of a traditional classroom experience. For nurses excited to begin the next phase of their careers as quickly as possible, online programs may be the best fit.

Program Curriculum

The curriculum for an MSN in Patient Safety & Quality program prepares students for evaluating and improving best practices for patient safety and healthcare quality. Course work often includes research methodology, legal issues and privacy rights, risk assessment and regulatory compliance.

As an example of program curriculum, the following courses are included in Drexel University's online MSN in Healthcare Quality, Patient Safety & Risk Management program:

  • Quality & Safety in Healthcare
  • Research Methods & Biostatistics
  • Legal Compliance: Structure & Implementation
  • Regulations in Healthcare
  • Analysis of Performance Standards in Healthcare Quality
  • Healthcare Quality and the Legal Context
  • Science of Safety, Human Factors and Systems Thinking
  • Evaluation and Translation of Health Research

What Are the Tuition & Costs for an MSN in Patient Safety & Quality Program?

As mentioned above, the cost of an MSN in Patient Safety & Quality program varies widely from school to school. In addition to tuition fees, other costs associated with an MSN degree generally include mandatory university fees, materials and supplies including textbooks, graduation fees, room and board, and transportation and commuting costs. As an example of program costs, the online MSN in Patient Safety & Quality program at Southern New Hampshire University is currently $1,881 per course, or $627 per credit hour. Additional program costs include $40 application fee, $150 graduation fee and course materials which vary based on course.

What Are the Career Options for Nurses With an MSN in Patient Safety & Quality?

Nurses with an MSN in Patient Safety & Quality have a number of career options to explore, primarily in patient safety, compliance and quality assurance in a variety of healthcare settings. Infection control nursing may also be an option. Other roles may include:

  • Patient Safety Officer: Patient safety officers create healthcare policies and procedures that ensure patients receive quality treatment in a safe and effective manner. A management position, the patient safety officer ensures their team always priorities patient safety and strives to improve patient outcomes.
  • Director of Quality Management: A director of quality management may work in a number of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. They provide oversight, planning and coordination of quality assurance activities such as patient care reviews, compliance audits and clinical record reviews.
  • Healthcare Risk Officer or Manager: A healthcare risk officer or manager is responsible for coordinating all compliance and regulatory functions including mitigating risk, upholding regulatory standards, acting as a resource person to healthcare staff and collaborating with other hospital or healthcare center leadership.
  • Nursing Quality Improvement Coordinator: A nursing quality improvement coordinator performs onsite reviews regarding quality issues in a hospital or other healthcare setting. They may also document and investigate quality complaints, gather and compile quality improvement reports and recommend improvements to nursing quality.

Organizations & Helpful Resources

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