Online RN to MSN Programs in Utah
Although it offers online programs around the country, Western Governors University is headquartered in Salt Lake City. You’ll find a detailed profile of its unusual RN to MSN pathway in our school listings. Here are a few important points to note about the distance learning elements:
- Western Governors University: The entire RN to MSN program is 100% online and almost all of it is self-paced (i.e. asynchronous)—you complete coursework on your own timeline. The only exception is an initial course in Inter-Professional Leadership & Communication in Healthcare. This short, 1-month class requires students to participate in five 2-hour live cohorts via webcam (i.e. group meetings). Many cohort options are available, 7 days of the week, up to 90 days in advance. WGU is an online university with no campus footprint and it’s part of NC SARA.
WGU isn’t for everyone. If you’d prefer to consider more traditional options, our page on Online RN to MSN Programs contains listings from every state. Some of these online programs are from highly ranked & highly respected schools.
Utah’s Healthcare Landscape
Utah is a state that’s working hard on its healthcare challenges. In most respects, it’s succeeding. Data from America’s Health Rankings and the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) show good results in many metrics (e.g. diabetes, obesity, cancer, children in poverty, etc.). It has a robust system of medical centers in the Salt Lake City area. And opioid deaths have been on a steady decline.
But it faces a key problem. In recent years, nearly 1 in 5 Utah adults have been suffering from poor mental health. Suicide rates in Utah can be alarmingly high, especially among youth, and children lack access to mental healthcare treatment (e.g. adolescent psychiatrists). There are not enough long-term or intermediate beds for residents with severe mental health issues and hospital ERs are feeling the strain.
Rural patients have it particularly hard. In the 2018 U.S. Rural Health Report Card, Utah received terrible grades for mental health access and the uninsured rate. Low birthweights were also of concern. Counties with the worst health outcomes & health factors tend to be in the rural east & southeast. In 2018, Carbon County had the highest rate of prescription overdose deaths in Utah.
Utah Nursing Challenges & Opportunities
Having said all that, aspiring APRNs in Utah should find plenty of opportunities to help with projects that are already in play. These include efforts to:
- Improve Access: The state agreed to expand Medicaid in 2019, which should encourage more low income rural patients to seek out primary care. Adding consistent screening for mental health problems will enable early invention.
- Serve Rural Areas: Intermountain Healthcare runs a number of hospitals and medical clinics in rural communities, and keeps them open through an extensive telehealth network and charity care.
- Track Drugs: The Utah Department of Health is working on real-time monitoring and reporting of opioid overdose deaths and the Utah Department of Public Safety is creating a Drug Monitoring Initiative (i.e. an early warning system).
- Help Youth: In 2019, the state government launched new Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams and pumped more money into crisis lines & youth suicide prevention programs.
- Increase Providers: U of U is developing child & adolescent mental health training for physicians, NPs, and physician assistants and has funding for new psychiatry resident slots.
Advocacy at the state & federal level, informatics projects in mental health, telemedicine and tele-psychology pilot programs, travel nursing for CNMs, nursing leadership in hospitals on rural issues, public health initiatives in schools—the possibilities are endless.
Jobs for Utah RN to MSN Graduates
Career Outlook for RN to MSN Graduates
We’re pleased to report that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks job & wage data for Nurse Practitioners and Nursing Instructors & Teachers, Postsecondary on an annual basis. You can use the state & regional maps to get a bird’s-eye-view of the career territory.
- Overall, Utah employs a moderate number of NPs—fewer than Colorado or Arizona, but more than Nevada.
- The biggest job center, as any Utah RN already knows, is Salt Lake City. Around 60% of the state’s NPs and 33% of its nursing instructors work in the area, and around 17% of NPs work in Provo-Orem.
- Wages for NPs are far from spectacular, but they tend to be best in the north (e.g. Ogden-Clearfield).
If you’re new to the area and looking for a hospital job, you may wish to check out the Utah Hospital Association’s list of UHA Member Hospitals (e.g. children’s hospitals, specialty hospitals, community hospitals, VA regional hospital, mental health clinics, etc.) and U.S. News & World Report rankings of the Best Hospitals in Utah. Here are a few highlights:
- Salt Lake City: University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City and Intermountain Medical Center are “Best Hospitals” with major footprints and good patient experience ratings. The Primary Children’s Hospital is nationally ranked in children’s specialties and gets rave reviews from nurses. And U of U’s Huntsman Cancer Institute is an NCI-designated cancer research facility and hospital.
- Provo-Orem: Utah Valley Hospital – Intermountain Healthcare is a “Best Hospital” and Level II Trauma Center. Orem Community Hospital often has strong patient experience ratings and Timpanogos Hospital receives excellent reviews.
- Ogden: McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden is usually a “Best Hospital” and earns good patient experience ratings. Ogden Regional Medical Center is another possibility.
- Southwest: The Dixie Regional Medical Center in Saint George is the major medical referral center for northwestern Arizona, southeastern Nevada and southern Utah and a “Best Hospital.” And Cedar City Hospital – Intermountain Healthcare in Cedar City has a good reputation among patients.
- Rural: Utah’s Office of Primary Care & Rural Health (OPCRH) has info for rural healthcare providers and links to to Utah HPSA Maps. Utah has a Health Care Workforce Financial Assistance Program (HCWFAP), which provides educational loan repayment assistance to healthcare professionals who locate or continue to practice in underserved areas, but the program isn’t always funded.
Looking for more autonomy? Check out the DOPL’s section on Nursing Laws & Rules and UNP’s advice on NP Practice in Utah. NPs can be licensed as APRNs with independent practice authority in Utah, but there are some caveats on prescriptions. As of 2019, NPs that practice in pain clinics and new graduates who wish to open a solo practice and prescribe Schedule II medications may need to have a Consultation & Referral Plan with a physician or experienced APRN. See the laws & rules for complete details.
Career Resources for Future APRNs
Utah Nursing Job Boards
- UNA Career Center: Job listings for Utah nurses, including APRNs, nurse leaders & nurse educators
- UNP Career Center: Job listings for Utah NPs
- Utah Hospital Employment: Links to the employment websites of UHA Member Hospitals
Utah APRN Salary & Wage Data
- Annual Mean Wages for Utah Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations: Categories can include “Nurse Practitioners,” “Nurse Midwives,” and “Nurse Anesthetists”
- Annual Mean Wages for Utah Nursing Instructors & Teachers, Postsecondary
- AANP National Compensation Survey: Available to AANP members
Utah Nursing Organizations
Utah Nursing Associations & Coalitions
- National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN): Utah Chapter
- Utah Hospital Association (UHA)
- Utah Nurses Association (UNA)
- Utah Nurse Practitioners (UNP)
Utah Nursing Specialty Organizations
- American College of Nurse-Midwives – Utah Affiliate (Utah ACNM)
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association – Utah Chapter (APNA Utah)
- Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses – Utah (AWHONN Utah)
- Utah Association of Nurse Anesthetists (UANA)
- Utah Association of Occupational Health Nurses (UAOHN)
- Utah Organization of Nurse Leaders (UONL)
- Utah School Nurse Association (USNA)
- Utah Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (USPAN)
- Utah Student Nurses Association (USNA)
Nursing School Overview
WGU is a private, non-profit, regionally accredited university based in Salt Lake City. Because it's an online university, it doesn't have to worry about brick & mortar facilities. That means tuition prices for online nursing degrees can be extremely affordable. Debt rates are low and scholarships are available. However, this also means WGU students don't have access to certain campus-based benefits (e.g. a respected university name, faculty involved in community research, nursing schools with strong ties to local healthcare partners, etc.). WGU is a popular choice for experienced RNs, so you'll find tons of independent reviews and opinions on message boards and review sites. Most of them are positive - graduates often mention how much they like the program mentors/accountability coaches, the self-paced nature of the program, the alumni support network, and the ability to prove their competencies on their own terms (e.g. no mandatory discussion boards or group projects). Others warn that you will need to be self-motivated and ready to tackle a lot of large research papers and projects. And a few have experienced frustrations with grading and coursework redundancy. As always, we recommend you talk to recent graduates and ask WGU for pass rates on relevant exams (e.g. CNE). If you're thinking of applying to an NP program down the track, you should also read the Common Questions section in Admissions Requirements. WGU graduates do not have a GPA when they earn their degree, so you may need to prove your worth with other factors (e.g. letters of recommendation, honors program, project portfolio, etc.).
RN to MSN Admissions & Curriculum
WGU is the unicorn in our listings. The online RN to MSN program is administered in a self-paced, competency-based format, and tuition costs are linked to time - not the total number of credits. To apply, candidates must have an associate degree or diploma in nursing, a current & unencumbered RN license, and be actively working as an RN at the time of application & enrollment. You will also need to provide a resume and submit to a criminal background check. Not every applicant is admitted. If you are successful, you'll begin by taking a course in Inter-Professional Leadership & Communication in Healthcare within the first month. This is a short, cohort-based course that requires participation in live online group meetings with faculty and fellow students. After that, you are on your own schedule. Working with a Program Mentor, you'll prepare a personalized degree plan. Lower-division coursework (e.g. psychology, statistics, etc.) can be cleared through transfer credit. But you will need to take upper-level BSN courses, MSN core courses, and courses in your choice of specialty. You can work through the curriculum as quickly as you like - each course begins with a pre-assessment and culminates in an assessment that you must pass (e.g. test, paper, project, or presentation). In addition, all MSN programs finish with an in-depth field experience (i.e. practicums) in a relevant setting and a related capstone project. 89% of RN to MSN students finish in 1-4 years.