Use the school listings to determine if there’s a pathway and concentration that suits your needs. Learn more about the structure of online RN to MSN programs in Kentucky. And discover why our ranking of the cheapest Kentucky RN to MSN programs doesn’t matter all that much.
Careerists may also want to glance at our sections on Kentucky’s healthcare landscape and jobs for Kentucky RN to MSN graduates. We’ve highlighted links to important healthcare reports, job & wage data, local job boards, and hospital rankings. Kentucky is one place where smart APRNs are desperately needed.
If you’d like some insider knowledge, try contacting members of KY nursing associations & organizations. Many of them may be willing to act as mentors and/or offer advice on the best places to work.
Online RN to MSN Programs in Kentucky
Both of the Kentucky universities in our school listings offer online RN to MSN programs—and that’s where the similarities end! We’ve given them full coverage in the program profiles. Here’s a quick summary of the major differences:
- Frontier Nursing University: FNU is the only Kentucky school offering an online ADN to MSN pathway. You can complete most of the coursework online, but you’ll still be required to visit Kentucky for three brief on-campus residencies—two in your undergraduate year and one skills-intensive experience during your MSN. As of 2020, FNU’s Kentucky campus will be located in Versailles, near Lexington and its airport. FNU is a well-loved program, but check the Accreditation & State Authorization page to make sure your state has no restrictions on applying.
- Northern Kentucky University: NKU is willing to consider RNs with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree for its 100% online MSN. The 7-week courses are self-paced, with lectures, notes, readings, and content modules. However, students are also expected to participate in discussion boards and group projects. Be sure to consult the Program Map to determine state authorization and eligibility. NKU still can’t accept applicants from a number of states.
Cheapest RN to MSN Programs in Kentucky
This ranking of the most affordable Kentucky RN to MSN programs is based on per credit graduate tuition rates. But we’ll be the first to say that it’s unfair to compare the two! They have different admissions requirements (ADN vs. non-nursing bachelor’s), different residency requirements, and different structures. FNU’s rate may be ever-so-slightly cheaper, but the program is also much longer than NKU’s. Draw up a complete budget of all fees and extra expenses.
Kentucky’s Healthcare Landscape
- Kentucky tends to have high death rates from cancer, diabetes, drug overdoses, heart disease, and firearms. It can be #1 in the country for cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease.
- Unsurprisingly, it also has a high prevalence of smoking, excessive drinking, and frequent mental distress. Kentucky is one of the leading producers of tobacco, which provides an extra challenge to public health.
- Many other factors are extremely troublesome, including adult & childhood obesity, infant mortality, children in poverty, and physical inactivity.
You can see why Kentucky ranks so low for Healthy Lives in the Commonwealth Fund’s Scorecard on State Health System Performance. And although it agreed to Medicaid expansion, it also has troubles with Disparity and Avoidable Hospital Use & Cost.
Rural areas are being hit the hardest:
- In the 2018 U.S. Rural Health Report Card, Kentucky received an overall grade of F, with more of the same for general health, mental health, physical health, and low birth weight. The only area where it’s doing well is the uninsured rate.
- 40%+ of Kentucky residents live in rural counties—a place where the age-adjusted mortality rate can be 18% higher than urban counties.
- If you look at the BCBS Health Index Map and County Health Rankings, you’ll see that counties with the lowest rankings in health outcomes & health factors are clustered around the eastern part of the state. Think Coal Country and Appalachia.
Kentucky Nursing Challenges & Opportunities
In other words, Kentucky APRNs will have their work cut out for them. Legislative action on a state and federal level, changes in hospital administration, rural health initiatives, the list goes on and on.
- Access to care is a big one. Without solid primary care & maternal care and early intervention, there will be a new generation of rural patients in Kentucky with major health problems. Telehealth and travel nursing are two possibilities, but APRNs may also want to contribute to reorganizing rural hospitals & clinics to improve services.
- Public health is another key issue. Tackling unhealthy behaviors requires large-scale coordination & fundraising—skills that nurse leaders & executives have in abundance.
- FNPs can also start to make a difference on the ground, with patient education, community-led projects (e.g. weekend games for kids & adults, healthy eating markets, drug recovery centers, etc.), and grassroots advocacy.
Jobs for Kentucky RN to MSN Graduates
Career Outlook for RN to MSN Graduates
You can get a broad sense of the job territory for Kentucky APRNs by visiting the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)’s pages on Nurse Practitioners and Nursing Instructors & Teachers, Postsecondary. The job & wage maps are particularly useful—hover over a state or region to see the data points being used.
Overall, Kentucky has a fairly high concentration of NPs for its size & population, but wages are often in the bottom bracket. The biggest hubs—as you would expect—are Louisville/Jefferson County (~24% of NPs) and Lexington-Fayette (~18% of NPs). This trend looks likely to continue as more folks flock to cities.
- Lexington: Lexington has some of the Best Hospitals in Kentucky and a number of Magnet Facilities, including KU Albert B. Chandler Hospital and Baptist Health Lexington. KU Nursing is nestled in Lexington, Frontier Nursing University is in Versailles (as of 2020), and the Frankfort Regional Medical Center isn’t that far away.
- Louisville: Louisville has a cluster of Schools of Nursing, which is one of the reason it employs ~36% of the state’s nursing instructors. Louisville is also home to Baptist Health Louisville and Norton Hospital (Baptist Health is a Magnet Facility).
- Cincinnati/Edgewood: St. Elizabeth Healthcare is a big player in the Edgewood area, and Cincinnati hospitals & universities often have postings for APRNs.
Hoping to help in rural areas? The Kentucky Office of Rural Health (KORH) is a good place to start. In particular, NPs, CNMs, and Psychiatric Nurse Specialists should apply for the Kentucky State Loan Repayment Program (KSLRP). Applicants agree to work for 2 years in rural and underserved locations throughout the state. If you’re interested in building networking connections, check out the list of Conferences, Workshops, and Webinars.
Thinking of running your own practice? The Kentucky Board of Nursing’s section on APRN Practice has complete details on laws & limitations. As of 2019, Kentucky APRNs could prescribe drugs independently after four years of practicing under a collaborative agreement with a supervising physician. See the Board of Nursing for the latest updates.
Career Resources for Future APRNs
Kentucky Nursing Job Boards
- KCNPNM Career Center: Job listings for Kentucky APRNs, including NPs and Nurse-Midwives
- Hospital Jobs Online: Job listings for healthcare professionals in Kentucky hospitals
- Kentucky Rural Health Association (KHRA) Job Postings: Openings for rural healthcare professionals
Kentucky APRN Salary & Wage Data
- Annual Mean Wages for Kentucky Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations: Categories can include “Nurse Practitioners,” “Nurse Midwives,” and “Nurse Anesthetists”
- Annual Mean Wages for Kentucky Nursing Instructors & Teachers, Postsecondary
- AANP National Compensation Survey: Available to AANP members
Kentucky Nursing Organizations
State Board of Nursing
Kentucky Nursing Associations & Coalitions
- Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners & Nurse-Midwives (KCNPNM)
- Kentucky Hospital Association (KHA)
- Kentucky Nurses Association (KNA)
- National Black Nurses Association (NBNA): Kentucky Chapters
Kentucky Nursing Specialty Organizations
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association – Kentucky Chapter (APNA Kentucky)
- Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses – Kentucky (AWHONN Kentucky)
- Kentucky Association of Nurse Anesthetists (KyANA)
- Kentucky Association of Nursing Students (KANS)
- Kentucky Emergency Nurses Association (KY State ENA)
- Kentucky League for Nursing (KLN)
- Kentucky Organization of Nurse Leaders (KONL)
- Kentucky School Nurses Association (KSNA)
- Kentucky Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (KSPAN)
Nursing School Overview
FNU is a private, non-profit graduate school that began its life as the Frontier Graduate School of Midwifery. It has a long history in rural nursing and it's often regarded one of the best of the best for online nursing programs. This opinion is borne out by its U.S. News & World Report rankings (e.g. top 10 for FNP; top 25 for Nursing-Midwifery; top 50 for Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs; and top 65 for Best Nursing Schools). The online MSN is very popular (e.g. 850+ students; 110+ faculty) and fairly tough to get into (e.g. 50% acceptance rate). In recent years, the average undergraduate GPA of successful applicants was 3.6. But the results speak for themselves. Certification exam pass rates are superb and job placement statistics are very strong. Nearly 40% of FNU students live in federally designated rural areas and many folks serve in HPSAs or federally designated rural areas after graduation. MSN students traditionally find their own practicum sites & preceptors, but FNU has a giant alumni community and network of clinical sites that you can draw upon. Because FNU's graduate program is so well-known, you'll also find plenty of tips and advice on nursing message boards. Reviewers say the program is super-rigorous, instructors are passionate & nurturing, and rural nursing skills are given their full due. One thing to watch out for - because of the length of the program, many MSN students emerge with significant debt. Apply for as many FNU scholarships as you can.
RN to MSN Admissions & Curriculum
This accelerated online ADN to MSN program is open to RNs with a CCNE- or ACEN-accredited associate degree in nursing from a regionally accredited institution. In addition, candidates must have a current, active & unencumbered RN license, a cumulative 3.0 GPA, and 1 year of nursing experience (FNU will consider related experiences, such as working as a doula). No BSN is awarded in FNU's program. Instead, students begin with an undergraduate Bridge year (12 months). This consists of 8 courses (24 credits). During this year, you'll also be required to attend 2 campus experiences - the Bridge Bound orientation at the start and Crossing the Bridge at the end, where you'll present community health projects and participate in a peer mentoring program. After this, you can proceed to the MSN. The MSN-FNP is 61 credits, MSN-PMHNP is 60 credits, and the MSN in Nurse-Midwifery is 64 credits. Prior to beginning clinicals, you'll visit the campus again for Clinical Bound - a skills-intensive experience. All concentrations include 675 clinical hours, but practicums can be completed in your home community. The MSN takes ~24 months to complete on a full-time schedule (8 terms/2-3 courses per term); part-time study is available. Graduates also have the option to earn a DNP by taking an additional 19 credit hours (9-18 months).
Nursing School Overview
NKU is a public university in Highland Heights with a solid School of Nursing. It often achieves a top 25 spot in U.S. News & World Report rankings for Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs and pass rates are strong (e.g. average of 92% on ANCC and AANP certification exams and 100% on the PMHNP). According to U.S. News & World Report data, the online MSN has a competitive admissions process (e.g. 59% acceptance rate), high standards (e.g. average undergraduate GPA of 3.5 for successful applicants), and a cozy feel (e.g. 14 faculty teaching small class sizes). Most students take 3 years to graduate and emerge with low debt. We particularly like the fact that the school runs a Nurse Advocacy Center for the Underserved (NACU) and devotes some of its research to community-driven interventions in Northern Kentucky. NKU's program is not as old as FNU's, but there are independent reviews and opinions about it on the web. Students often praise the affordability and supportive nature of the program, but some of them occasionally had trouble getting in touch with advisors and instructors.
RN to MSN Admissions & Curriculum
NKU is happy to consider RNs with a non-nursing bachelor's degree for its 100% online MSN (it also offers an RN to BSN pathway for associate degree holders). In addition to their baccalaureate, applicants should have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, a current & unencumbered RN license, a prerequisite in statistics (grade of C or better), and 1,000 hours of work experience. Once you're admitted, you'll be required to take 2 BSN-level courses (6 credits): Concepts of Professional Nursing and Nursing Research (or the equivalent). After that, you'll be able to tackle the online MSN. The length of the program will depend on the concentration. The MSN in Nursing and MSN in Education and Nursing Executive Leadership are 33 credits and might only take 12 months to finish. NP specialties range from 43-47 credits (17-19 courses, including clinical practicums) and might take 20-22 months to complete. Each MSN course is 7 weeks long, courses are offered year-round, and no campus visits are required.