Bachelors of Science in Nursing in Montana

Nurses who have a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree have an appreciable impact on lowering the rates of patient mortality and patient re-admission. For this reason and to meet the demands of Montana’s projected heath care professional shortage, the state is working towards the goal of having at least 80 percent of its nursing workforce educated at the BSN-level or higher in the next five years.

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According to the most recent labor figures there are 16,848 nurses in Montana with active RN licenses. In 2013 there were just 1,170 students enrolled in BSN programs across the state, with 258 students graduating that year from BSN and more advanced academic programs. When combined with the total workforce, this new graduating class would make up just 1.5 percent of the total nursing workforce in Montana.

Because nurses who hold a BSN or higher have a competitive advantage over their counterparts who do not, it is a logical conclusion that BSN degree programs will also be competitive. According to a report released by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), in 2013 there were a total of 1,252 Montana students enrolled in BSN or higher nursing schools. However that same year there were also 300 students who met program admission requirements but were turned away for lack of space – the highest number in the state’s nursing school history. Researching BSN programs ahead of time will help prospective students plan and organize their academic future.

Once students have met the education requirements and passed the NCLEX-RN Exam, they can apply for an RN license through the Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s Board of Nursing.

Enrolling in Pre-Licensure BSN Programs in Montana and Online

There are two colleges and universities in Montana that offer freshmen-to-senior BSN programs, and one additional college that offers a BSN degrees for transfer or double-degree students who have already completed their undergraduate courses and nursing prerequisites. None of these programs require students to have an RN license. Starting with the two full four-year programs, these schools are based in the cities of:

  • Bozeman
  • Helena
  • Missoula

BSN nursing programs are usually divided into two parts that total at least 120 semester credits:

  • Two years of undergraduate courses and nursing prerequisites
  • Two years of upper-division core BSN nursing courses – usually requires a separate admission process into the specific school of nursing

Most BSN programs accept transfer students who have completed their undergraduate and core nursing classes at other accredited schools, including online colleges and universities. However the BSN program based out of Helena currently only accepts incoming freshmen who complete a full four-year BSN program, not transfer students.

Upper-division core nursing courses for the BSN program based out of Bozeman can also be completed at satellite campus locations in:

  • Billings
  • Great Falls
  • Kalispell
  • Missoula

Montana BSN Prerequisites

In most cases students will need to complete their undergraduate course load and nursing requirements before they will be admitted into a school of nursing. Nursing prerequisites will prepare students for their core courses, and include subjects such as:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Organic chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Sociology and psycho-social health
  • Ethics and legal aspects of nursing
  • Family care
  • Statistics
  • Human nutrition
  • Principles of pathophysiology

College of Nursing Entry Requirements in Montana

Typically once students are near to completing their nursing prerequisites they can apply for admission to a school or department of nursing. Entry requirements can vary from program to program, with common requirements including:

  • Minimum overall GPA, with higher GPA requirements for nursing prerequisites
  • Clinical requirements, such as:
    • Criminal background check
    • CPR and first aid certification
    • Vaccinations and a tuberculosis test
    • Liability insurance

Core BSN Courses and Clinical

Once admitted to a school of nursing, students will start on their upper-division-level core nursing courses. These include the study of subjects like:

  • Pharmacotherapeutics
  • Nursing for the childbearing family
  • Acute and chronic illnesses
  • Heath care and nursing research
  • Community-based nursing
  • Psychiatric nursing
  • Nursing management and leadership
  • Palliative nursing care
  • Evidence-based nursing practices
  • Infant, child, adult, and elderly nursing
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Core courses are also completed in a clinical setting. Schools of nursing can have clinical agreements with hospitals, long-term care facilities, or community clinics throughout the state. To accommodate students who may be completing part of their BSN program online, approved clinical locations can even be in other states. Some examples of possible clinical locations in Montana include:

  • Billings Clinic
  • Saint Patrick’s Hospital and Radiology in Missoula
  • Saint Vincent Health Care in Billings
  • Kalispell Regional Medical Center
  • Billings Hospital
  • Benefis Hospitals in Great Falls
  • Advanced Care Hospital of Montana in Billings

Taking the NCLEX-RN Exam and Joining the Workforce in Montana

In 2013, 87.7 percent of Montana’s nursing students passed the NCLEX-RN Exam, more than four percentage points above the national average. Many of Montana’s BSN programs devote specific time or courses to preparing their students for success on this exam, as it is a vital step to RN licensure in Montana.

Students can register for the NCLEX-RN through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), and the test itself is administered through Pearson VUE. Students can find a variety of resources to prepare for their exam, including:

Nurses with a BSN degree will find that they have more employment options, especially in leadership positions. Some advanced careers that are open to BSNs in Montana include:

  • Nursing school instructor
  • Nurse planner and coordinator
  • Nurse director
  • Hospice team leader
  • Labor and delivery specialist nurse
  • Clinical program director

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