WGU The BSN to MSN Program

The following is a synopsis of the courses I had to complete to finish my BSN to MSN program (I graduated in 2016). These courses may have changed since then but this will give you a good idea of what to expect from the program. I had 37 CU’s to complete for the MSN (they changed this after I was done and removed an OA). There are 14 courses.

You’ll notice a theme in my explanations below, a lot of redundancy. Many of the courses were more work than I thought at first glance and because of this the course insight I have is a bit longer than the BSN courses.

I will reiterate what I have told many aspiring students, if you have any desire to potentially consider your MSN just start with the RN to MSN program rather than doing it step by step RN to BSN, BSN to MSN, like I did. That’s my personal advice. You end up repeating a bit of coursework by doing it in 2 phases and you easily lose your motivation when there is a pause in between both programs. Trust me, it happened to me! I finished my MSN within 3 terms and also took a term break but I definitely could’ve finished it in a single term if I used the same pace  and motivation that I had used with the BSN program. We had baby #3, sold our house of 12 years, lived in a camper with 5 humans and a dog for 2 months, remodeled our new home, among other things while I completed the MSN. Point is, life will get in the way if you let it, so FINISH as quickly as you can without breaks.

The MSN degree was a different experience in some regards than the BSN. The content of the coursework is a lot more dry for lack of a better way to put it. I imagine most of us nurses out there got into nursing because we enjoy being around people, making a difference with them DIRECTLY, we like science and understanding the body, etc. When you move to the BSN you start to break away from this a little bit and then when you move to the MSN your nursing education and curriculum is a faint memory. The courses have next to NO relation to direct patient care, you are much more removed from that thought process which can be a little bit of an adjustment.

These courses are extremely “managerial” and delve into topics that many of us probably haven’t given a thought to in our careers at the bedside. Think of it as an education into the administrative part of healthcare. We’re talking financial implications of healthcare performance scoring, we’re talking insurance implications on patient billing vs well being, we’re talking healthcare policy and the political arena affecting medicine, we’re talking about organizational methods within your workplace and how these impact safety or profit.

Primary Differences Between BSN & MSN Coursework 

The courses, generally speaking, are more involved and time consuming than the BSN. In fact there were many times that I thought the amount of work I was doing for 2-3 CU’s was insane! They could’ve easily been 5-6 credit courses. The PA’s have many more requirements than the ones in the BSN program so your papers are going to be longer and require more research and thought. There are also far less OA’s, when I took the courses there were only 3 and the rest were papers. Some of the PA’s offer the option to do a Powerpoint presentation and I did this when possible, it was nice to have a break from the traditional paper writing.

Unlike the BSN courses there aren’t a ton of shortcuts for moving quickly in the MSN because it’s mostly: research a topic- write a paper, research a topic- write a paper. However, there are key things you can do to make the ride easier and segue into your capstone that I will outline below.
For many of the MSN courses there are study guides and tips that the instructors will send you or that you can request, some are found in the “course chatter” or “course tips”. They help you isolate what to focus on and give you insight into common errors students make that get work sent back. The ones I found most helpful were the actual paper templates. Keep a close eye on these, however, as they relate to the actual course rubric because some of the templates have you include a lot more information (aka work) than is needed for the rubric. Many instructors set up cohorts and videos for you to participate in to get a handle on the coursework, I personally did not utilize these because they were very time consuming and had to be scheduled but I’m sure many folks find this helpful.

Course By Course Insight & Tips

Professional Presence and Influence ULT2
This course is a fairly simple intro into the program. You start out by taking the Kersey personality test and then you use those results to compile most of the paper. You’re asked to evaluate the results, how the findings affect you in general and as professional, what this could mean for your career or how you interact with your peers and patients. There is also discussion of different health and healing models, how your views may differ from those, which may be the best application for your facility. This is probably one of the shortest and most succinct papers in the MSN program.

Pathopharmacological Foundations for Advanced Nursing practice C155
The assignment descriptions sound relatively simple and easy but then you open up the rubric and see a bazillion areas to address. All this means is that it’s going to be long but as I’ve said nearly all of these PA’s are LONG, just get used to it now. You will select one out of 5 choices of a major chronic disease to write in depth about as far as the pathophysiology of the disease and all of the implications associated with managing that disease. I chose asthma, lots of sources out there to make your research quick. This one will be reminiscent of the community health stuff because there are many sections that ask you to discuss community implications of the disease, socioeconomic factors, disparities, etc.  You also start to dive into the whole idea of financial implications from disease, how reimbursement rates are affected, what problems this may cause for the facility and providers. You’ll be revising these concepts over and over again throughout the MSN PA’s.
Contemporary Pharmacotherapeutics C352
This was an OA for my program, from the description of it now I think it may have changed to a PA. For my exam there was no study guide so I skimmed the COS and pretty much used the practice exam to gather information on how the questions were going to be. There was a bit of content on complementary therapies, herbal supplements, medication management for chronic disease pathways. A little bit about special categories of patients (pregnancy, pediatrics, etc). Bush up on ethics terminology. It’s a typical nclex style OA.
Organizational Leadership and Interprofessional Team Development C158
This paper will be the starting point of reference for many papers down the line and they will start to sound redundant because they cover very similar concepts. Generally speaking: assessing your facility, how to identify improvement areas, act as a leader, organize a team, develop methods of change, implement change, evaluate change, evaluate financial implications, etc. You’ll tackle these things over and over again.The course instructors send out several emails with videos to help you understand the concepts, these are time consuming to watch and I didn’t utilize them. I did utilize the FAQ sheet that they emailed which very concisely shows you how to organize and answer the rubric questions for the PA. It literally gives you written example text of every part of the rubric. A bit of advice, in the following courses that come up, come back and reference this paper, no need to reinvent the wheel on those tasks if you already have the answers right here.
Advanced Information Management and the Application of Technology C156

You take the info learned from this one in the BSN and instead of a test you get to write a paper, YAY! This one seems pretty straightforward and it is, but it becomes involved since it contains 2 parts. If you aren’t readily familiar with EMR systems you need to get a crash course going to be able to write this paper more easily. On top of the paper you also have to create a Powerpoint where you address the details of your paper much more in-depth and create a plan to actually implement a new technology system.

In this course you explain how you would implement a new technology system into your facility. What would be involved in this, what key people you would need to be on a team to create and implement this, and why their roles and expertise are important. You discuss different technology systems and compare and contrast their strengths and weaknesses and offer an explanation of which system would be a best fit for your particular facility. You discuss the impact this technology system can have on patient care and patient outcomes, how it may affect documentation, and what data collection can be utilized for quality improvement. There is also a chunk of the paper that involves the ideas of technology security, HIPAA, and lastly the cost implications for the facility to implement a new technology system.

*A note on Powerpoints, save yourself time trying to be a movie producer or something, there is no need for elaborate design or page transitions, don’t worry about adding in multimedia (unless specifically required) or any fanciness. Simple slides. Be sure to put the rubric section heading on the corresponding slide to help graders.

Comprehensive Assessment for Patients and Populations C350

Here’s one of your repeat courses if you don’t do the straight RN-MSN. You will complete the watered down version of this for the BSN and then do it all over again for the MSN. The main difference is that the documentation portion is much more in depth, the video is identical. Same tips apply, print out the rubric grading for the areas you need to cover in your video, place this in a binder and mark them off as you go along during your video. For documentation, use the provided form and copy down the portions from the BSN, as none of this has changed, (unless you’d like to re-do the whole video and use another patient… why??) and then add in the extra detail for the added rubric requirements. For the rubric questions that are not contained on the form I simply added them to the bottom of the form so it was one document to turn in. Don’t forget your consents!


Translational Research for Practice and Populations C301

Another repeat of sorts. This one is like a mini “beast” from the BSN. If you like to save yourself time you can methodically use this course paper to pave the way for your field experience and capstone.

You are identifying a shortcoming in your facility that needs change, researching 5 scholarly sources that provide evidence about this policy and potential need for change, identifying key stakeholders in implementing a change, etc. These are the EXACT same things you do for your field experience and capstone. So like I said, if you want to save time find a way to marry the 2. You can re-use your research, re-use your facility description, re-use your team member identification, etc. Hammer through this one, don’t waste time on the research. A good Pub Med search is sufficient, look for “related articles” , double check that your dates are within 5 years, skim the abstracts and find a way to make them work even if they aren’t perfect. I included 6 sources just in case the grader didn’t like one of them, extra benefit- this was one less to do on the capstone too, always give and take.

Be grateful that you only have to find 5 sources of research for this one! It gets a lot more fun in the capstone… like 6x more fun 🙂


Policy Politics and Global Health Trends  C159
Write about a policy that impacts public health or the nursing profession. Before you go trying to find an idea, use the FAQ document from the course instructors to guide you. There are examples of common policies that are used. I went with the tried and true nurse to patient ratios, it’s a common issue at my facility and is no stranger to facilities nationwide. Continue to use the FAQ document for references on the things you need to discuss according to the rubric, there are very specific things that you must address which you can find in the COS if you want to spend a bunch of time reading through it or you can use the FAQ document to concisely find the information needed and move on.
As for “trends” you’ll notice this paper covers the same ground as many previous papers, identify an issue, identify decision makers and why their roles are important, financial implications of changes, methods of change, etc. etc. There are a LOT of rubric sections to cover on this one.
Essentials of Advanced Nursing Practice Field Experience C157
This course is time consuming and has an OA and a PA. On top of that there will be some “field” time involved because you will need to meet with and get permission from someone at your facility to review data related to an agency change that has ALREADY taken place. You’re not implementing a change, just evaluating one that has already occurred. Word to the wise, don’t petition someone at your facility that is higher up and freak them out that you’re trying to conduct an investigation on the facility. Go to the easiest person you have a relationship with that can get you access to a little bit of data about a policy change (they don’t have to be a nurse). It may be something like staffing changes, it could be the use of a new EMR system, it could be adaptation of a patient surveying system, etc. Something very straightforward. Then emphasize again and again to this person that it is only a review of data. Students have been completely shot down because they didn’t convey the assignment properly and this can have MAJOR consequences for your final capstone field experience if you burn that bridge.The course instructors have a nicely organized email they will send you with tips on both parts of the course. There is a paper template, USE THIS!! There is a practice quiz, TAKE THIS. Many instructors encourage you to join the cohorts to further your understanding of the concepts, I never did these. Honestly, very time consuming and with little kids at home there was never a convenient time for me to “check out” and check in to a cohort. I figured I’d save this idea if I happened to fail or was really struggling with the coursework.
For the PA, I remember opening the course instructions on Taskstream and thinking WHAT?!? It was so convoluted and sounded horribly confusing. I had no idea where to begin. Don’t let this stress you out, jump to the rubric, it’s much clearer what you are supposed to be doing from reading the rubric. Then print out all of the QIA forms and instructions so you can go through it line by line and start filling out your forms. I’d recommend doing this prior to speaking with your facility, that way you know exactly what kind of data you need to pull out and can present it to them clearly, get their signature and away you go. Start plugging things into the paper template.

The OA study guide is helpful, complete this and brush up on any areas that weren’t easy. The questions on the OA are not exactly black and white, some of that typical nclex style questioning, picking the most correct answer out of 4 correct answers. However, in my opinion it was pretty common sense. If you know how to look at data and strategize an approach to improve patient outcomes this test shouldn’t be too complicated. Definitely need to know Quality Improvement stuff. Go over the IHI PDSA model. Skim National Patient Safety Data markers.
Principles for Organizational Performance Management C161
I read the instructions for this one and it didn’t seem that bad but once I started to put it on paper it seemed to drag on and on. Essentially you’re putting yourself into the role of a nurse manager, you’re developing a scoring system of sorts on some areas of care delivery at your facility and then assessing how well your facility measures up. After that you’re creating a plan to improve upon these measurements, you’re talking about current health trends, employee engagement, etc. Consider pulling some of this information from your Translational Research paper and therefore using some of it for your capstone as well.
Principles of Healthcare Business and Financial Management C162
Woohoo the opportunity for a Powerpoint, yes please. You do have to include all “speaker notes” on the presentation so I just labeled each slide with the exact rubric sections and wrote in sentence form and then put the highlights on the powerpoint slides. You will also have to write a mini-paper of sorts, called an executive summary, for some portions of the rubric.
This is another redundant one, it’s all about value based purchasing and how this affects your facility, how the ideals can be modified and implemented to better your facility financially as well including improvement of patient outcomes. You’ll have to come up with staff education curriculum, goals and timelines for the next 3 years, how stakeholders will be involved, etc. The powerpoint is a change of pace but it’s a lot of detail to include so it takes a similar amount of time to complete as a traditional paper.
Strategic Leadership and Future Delivery Models C163
This one ugh, I highly underestimated the amount of work involved in this Powerpoint. It is complex to say the least, lots of rubric requirements that are based off of a lot of research so it’s time consuming to gather the data let alone summarize it all. The data is just the tip of the iceberg too, the assignment gets much more involved. You begin by researching health survey statistics of nearby healthcare facilities. With these statistics you start to examine the cause of any differences between facilities as well as between state and national statistics. You’re pulling out demographic information and then analyzing it in relation to cultural, socioeconomic, and educational differences. You discuss the financial impact of survey statistics both short and long term, come up with goals to improve these statistics along with a comprehensive plan to do so. There is a lot of emphasis put on the relationship between all of the facets of healthcare ie. patients, nurses, insurers, administrators, stakeholders, etc. Your job is to pull it all together and discuss a systematic plan of how everything can be adjusted to move together harmoniously to make a positive impact on the community. The Citydata website will be your friend for the research portion.
Nursing Leadership and Management Field Experience C355

Well you’ve made it to the end. While the Field Experience and Capstone are technically 2 courses, they are one in the same. There are 2 tasks for this course, they are built upon one another and make up a major portion of the paper for your capstone.

The purpose of this field experience is identical to your Translational Research class. Find a problem at your facility that needs change, provide research (30, yes 30, scholarly articles) demonstrating that it needs change, make a plan to implement this change, get a team together, come up with a timeline and goals, etc. If you played your cards right when you completed Translational Research you can bring this information right over to this paper. There is some debate about whether you can technically plagiarize your own work, I wholeheartedly believe you cannot. It is YOUR work. I never had to defend myself in this arena but if I did I would absolutely fight. I had several emails back and forth with course instructors clarifying the fact that you could use your exact same topic and research from Translational Research for the Field Experience, their consensus was that it was possible.

If you did NOT find a way to incorporate the same topic that is a major bummer but at a minimum you can use your Translational Research paper as a map to make the new topic go more quickly. I also recommend referencing your Organizational Leadership paper as you’ll see some very similar rubric requirements there that can be pulled over.

To find 30 scholarly articles less than 5 years old is a challenge to say the least! I actually utilized the school library for this on top of my internet findings. The librarian is super helpful and responsive if you need, I had them also grant me 48 hours access to some articles that were only available online for purchase. Keep that in mind if you find articles that only show you the abstract without some sort of subscription. Needless to say the research is beyond exhaustive. It will take time finding these and it will take even more writing up your summaries. Important note, you will only use about 15 of these articles in detail to support your proposed change the remaining articles only have to relate to your topic in some manner you don’t necessarily have to use them or quote them. Remember this when you’re scouting articles, if one doesn’t fit exactly but is still related to the topic in any way throw it in your pile of 30!

It is important to make sure you do these tasks exactly as asked. Fill out your approval letters and preceptor info precisely or it will get your entire task sent back for revision. There is a paper template with instructions that you absolutely should use and follow to a T for both tasks.
Nursing Leadership and Management Capstone 356

The capstone is a bit of a doozie. You have to compile together your field experience work and add in more chapters of new content and then submit the paper along with a live video presentation of you covering this information.

For task 1, the paper, use the provided template, copy over the work from the Field Experience (which will be chapters 1 & 2), write the remaining chapters that discuss the details of implementing your change, the process, the barriers, how to overcome the barriers, the evaluation, etc (this is chapters 3, 4, 5). Include any relevant tables or appendices.

For task 2 you create a Powerpoint presentation of your change to present on video. Try and organize your slides like the paper template going chapter by chapter. I used the headings in each chapter as the headings for my slides, wrote a short blurb on the slide summarizing those headings and then put speaker notes in that elaborated a little more that I would read verbatim during the presentation. Make sure you reference that rubric for what you need to cover on the presentation, it isn’t every single part of your paper so don’t waste time doing that. For the video I wore a business jacket, no scrubs, seemed more professional as this is a graduate capstone, you’re not doing shift work. The Panopto instructions are straightforward but it does take a little time to get everything set up. My recorded presentation was about 28 minutes, the recommended time is 30-45 minutes, I would err on the side of a little shorter, lets be honest NO grader out there wants to listen to a speech for 45 minutes on a topic they’ve probably heard a million times before.

Last bit of important info! You MUST pass the field experience task prior to submitting the capstone task (because one is a part of the other technically). I tried to turn all of mine in at the same time assuming by the time the field experience had passed I would be closer in the queue for the capstone. Unfortunately, my capstone was sent back immediately for revision solely because my field experience hadn’t “passed” yet. I was not thrilled about this because I had to sit and wait for the field to pass then start at square one with the capstone, it extended my grading time and completion time significantly starting over in the queues and almost hindered my graduation deadlines. Learn from my mistake, submit everything a bit earlier, and do one at a time.

MSN- RN is pretty cool to write after your name 🙂 the hard work will be worth it!!

Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 3.16.25 PM
The first email I received from the course instructor as I saw my work had passed!


17 thoughts on “WGU The BSN to MSN Program

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this information. I’m starting the 2nd quarter of a MSN program. Your course overviews are very helpful. Congrats on you accomplishment.


  2. Thank you so much for posting this information. I have followed your blog and completed my BSN at WGU in April and reading this has inspired me to continue with the MSN. I would like to eventually get a FNP post grad cert and am still debating going that route (MSN WGU then PGC FNP). Have you thought of doing a Pgc? Love your info on BSN at WGU that helped me so much!!! Keep posting 🙂 Lisa R


  3. This post has been the most informative in regards to WGU MSN Leadership & Management research I’ve done. I’ve been looking for more insight regarding what to expect and some tips (not ways to cheat or find a quick way through the program…this is Masters…let’s be real lol). This post was exactly what I was looking for!
    I begin the program next month and I’m READY! So helpful. I’ve been preparing for my MSN with WGU since July of this year and this post was the icing on the cake! I agree that some of the courses seem to be repeats, yet I received my BSN from another university, so taking the RN-MSN track was not an option for me, yet again, I knew this going into preparing myself for my MSN with WGU.
    Thank you so so much! I’ve been ready for awhile now, yet still had some thoughts and questions. All of my thoughts and questions are NOW answered and even more confident going into my program! 🙂
    I know you’re busy, Momma Maven, yet you should be a mentor for this program! You would be amazing!


    1. I’m so happy to hear that this has been helpful for you, I really wish the school did a better job explaining the program and preparing future students. I heard their admissions counselors are referring people to my blog for insight, so perhaps you’re right and they should enlist my official help 🙂

      Anyway, best of luck to you, it was a great program and anyone looking to put in the work will succeed as I did!


  4. Thanks for sharing the course info, super helpful! I am starting the program 12/1. Can’t wait to get it going! Thanks again and congrats on all your hard work!!


  5. You are such an inspiration! I am at the end of my term, I was supposed to graduate from my MSN program last September 2019, and I couldn’t do it. I had to extend my term, and now have the least amount of motivation what so ever! I think I tried to bite off more than I could chew.


    1. I feel ya! I did the same thing and my MSN took a lot longer than I wanted it to but that’s ok. I recommend setting up a schedule of courses to finish with end dates, whether it’s the schedule they give you or not, and making them unbreakable deadlines. It is a long haul to the finish line but SO worth it!! Summon your strength to push through just like a terrible 12 hour shift that turned into 16 or 24 🙂 Only 8% of people in the world hold a masters degree, for good reason! You can do this.


  6. Hi!! I start my MSN in February. I finished up my BSN early, but still have to wait for the actual term to end. Any advice or tips you can share so as I do not loose my momentum? Thanks. And congrats to you on all your accomplishments 🙂


    1. Way to go! I’d say my best advice is to set a non negotiable schedule for yourself and continue to knock the courses out. Keep in mind the MSN courses are a lot more time consuming so you’ll likely move slower in general but sticking to a schedule will keep you on track. I’d also ask if you may be able to access the COS for your MSN courses early, can’t hurt to ask.


  7. Hi, Question, is there a test that you have to take for ccne accreditation when you graduate or you just apply for the certificate? I plan to start 01/20 just been procrastinating as life happens. Btw congrats.


  8. Thank you so much for taking your valuable time to share all of this information. I am working on C351, then hopefully I will have enough time in this term to pull up C791 to finish my BSN this term ends the end of February then I start the MSN courses.


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