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Master of Science in Nursing Degree Online

Master of Science in Nursing Degree Online

Introduction to the MSN in Strategic Nursing Leadership at ATSU

Health care delivery is constantly evolving and adapting to ever changing challenges, requiring nurses to respond strategically and thoughtfully. In addition to clinical skills, the nurse leader in today’s healthcare environment needs to have additional business and policy awareness, especially in the areas of human resource management, population health, fiscal services, technology enhancements and patient safety. 

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Strategic Nursing Leadership program in A.T. Still University’s College of Graduate Health Studies prepares you to enhance and expand your leadership skills across a variety of settings. The MSN requires successful completion of nine courses and one administrative practicum course in which you focus on designing a quality improvement project in a practice environment of your choice. All didactic coursework is delivered online, with the potential to conduct your administrative practicum hours where you work. The program can be completed in 15 months.

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Our MSN program at A.T. Still University is developed so that the necessary content needed for the American Organization of Nurse Leaders (AONL) certification, known as the Certified in Nurse Executive Practice (CENP) exam, is included in the curriculum. If you have the prerequisite leadership experience of at least 2 years, at the end of our MSN program, you will be eligible to sit for the certification exam plus earn additional clinical hours to apply toward your DNP.

Our MSN-DNP program is designed to facilitate students who want to fast-track their career, resulting in both an MSN and the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. When you enter the MSN-DNP program, certain courses in the MSN program may be applied to the DNP course requirements, lessening your coursework requirements. In addition, your clinical site selected for your MSN administrative practicum hours may be eligible to also be your DNP clinical practice site where you would develop, implement and evaluate your DNP project.

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  • Career Advancement+

    • Potential career advancement opportunities are boundless with an MSN from A.T. Still University:

      • Acute and subacute care management
      • Community-based clinics
      • Public health clinics
      • Nurse-managed sites
      • Environmental and occupational health
      • Educational settings
  • Learning Outcomes+

    • The MSN Program prepares the graduate to achieve the following program outcomes:

      1. Integrate and synthesize evidence from nursing and related sciences to deliver advanced nursing care to populations in diverse practice settings.
      3. Apply collaborative leadership and decision-making skills within complex systems to promote high-quality nursing for diverse person-centered and population health care delivery.
      5. Illustrate the use of performance measures and quality improvement principles in promoting diverse person-centered and population health care, including the underserved community.
      7. Correlate the scholarship of nursing practice to improve patient and population care outcomes.
      9. Integrate person-centered care technologies to deliver and enhance advanced nursing care to diverse populations.
      11. Analyze the influence of policy, legal, and regulatory standards on the structure of healthcare, practice and patient outcomes. 
      13. Apply effective communication and consultative strategies to collaborate with interprofessional teams within the healthcare setting.
      15. Apply advanced nursing care into practice to influence healthcare outcomes for the individual and the community of interest.
      17. Develop and demonstrate a self-identity that establishes and maintains a professional and personal program of growth, leadership and career resiliency.

Master of Science in Nursing Degree Faculty

The ATSU, faculty and staff are dedicated to the success of each health professions degree student. The online GNP degrees offer challenging, interprofessional educational experiences that enables intellectual and practice advancement.

All ATSU GNP faculty hold doctoral degrees, bringing their diverse academic and professional backgrounds in nursing practice, leadership, and management to the online classroom and other GNP learning experiences. Their academic areas of expertise include executive administration, health policy and advocacy, community and rural health, advanced nursing practice, child and adolescent health, mental health, public and community health, palliative and end-of-life care, health information systems, and nursing research and education, among many others. ATSU GNP faculty enjoy online teaching and are committed to providing innovative instructional opportunities and experiences.

  • Dean +

      • Don Altman, DDS, DHSc, EdD, MPH, MBA, MA Dean Don Altman, DDS, DHSc, EdD, MPH, MBA, MA Dean
        Don Altman, DDS, DHSc, EdD, MPH, MBA, MA Dean LinkedIn

        Don Altman, DDS, DHSc, EdD, MPH, MBA, MA, is the Dean of the College of Graduate Health Studies (CGHS) at A.T. Still University (ATSU). He also serves as director of public health at ATSU’s Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH). Dr. Altman has been with ATSU since October 2006.

        Dr. Altman graduated from the University of Texas Dental Branch (DDS) in 1983. He completed his Master of Public Health degree at the University of Texas School of Public Health in 1989 and became Board Certified in Dental Public Health in 1999. Dr. Altman completed his MBA at the University of Phoenix (2002) and a MA in Bioethics from Midwestern University (2004). He graduated with a Doctor in Health Science (DHSc) degree in March 2012 from the Arizona School of Health Sciences at A.T. Still University (ATSU-ASHS) and his EdD from Southern New Hampshire University in March 2016.

        Dr. Altman has worked for The City of Houston, the State of Texas, the State of Arizona, as well as The Principal Financial Group. Dr. Altman’s public health experience includes: serving as President of the Arizona State Board Dental Examiners; serving as President of the Arizona Public Health Association; volunteering with Health Volunteers Overseas (Cambodia and Vietnam); Director of the National Oral Health Leadership Institute; and serving as the Consumer Representative to the Dental Products Panel for the Food and Drug Administration. On May 1, 2012 he was appointed as a Director to The American Board of Dental Public Health and is currently the president.


        Dr. Altman’s research interests are currently centered on public health and higher education. He has published articles in the Journal of Dental Education, Journal of the American Dental Association, Public Health Reports, Special Care in Dentistry, and Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.

  • Associate Dean of Academics and Assessment +

      • Jim Farris, PT, PhD Jim Farris, PT, PhD

        Jim Farris, PT, PhD, is the associate dean for academics and assessment in A.T. Still University’s College of Graduate Health Studies (ATSU-CGHS). Dr. Farris earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1987, and master’s degree in exercise science in 1989, both from California State University, Fresno; as well as a bachelor’s degree in physical therapying 1999 from Arkansas State University. His doctoral degree was conferred by The Ohio State University in 1995, where his studies focused on exercise physiology and nutrition. His current scholarship efforts are aimed at cardiopulmonary fitness throughout the lifespan.

        He joined ATSU in 2009, started his associate dean role in 2020, and is now in his 25th year of higher education and administration. Dr. Farris has over a decade of academic administration and assessment experience as a department chair and has strived for overall educational excellence in that role. He completed the American Physical Therapy Association’s Education Leadership Institute Fellowship, is an Educational Leadership Institute Fellow, and has served on the board of directors for the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy before joining ATSU-CGHS.


        He enjoys serving the community, and one our nation’s most underserved populations, through his role as a clinical director for the FUNfitness program that is part of the Special Olympics Healthy Athlete’s program. His home is in the west where outdoor activity and sunshine is abundant. Work-life integration is a goal and he “sharpens the saw” through golfing, cycling, fishing, hiking, cooking, brewing, and yardwork.

  • Chair and Associate Professor +

      • Karin A. Polifko, PhD Karin A. Polifko, PhD

        Karin Polifko’s career has spanned both the academic and service fields of health care. Along with teaching experience at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels, she has held positions as Vice President, Operations and Academic Affairs at Remington Colleges, as Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs at the University of Florida, as Consulting Dean, South College, Tennessee and as Director of Nursing at Christopher Newport University, Virginia.

        Dr. Polifko has extensive administrative experience in a variety of health care settings, in the roles of Vice President of System Development and Research, Administrative Director for Critical Care Services, Director of Nursing and Clinical Nurse Specialist. Past consulting projects include college and program development, organizational change assessment and evaluation, outcomes systems management, accreditation preparation, change management and leadership assessment. Her first textbook, Case Applications in Nursing Leadership and Management was published in 2004, Concepts of the Nursing Profession, was published in 2007 and The Practice Environment: Issues and Trends was published in 2010. Dr. Polifko has presented in a wide variety of workshops and seminars both nationally and internationally.

        Dr. Polifko received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Pennsylvania, her Doctorate in Public Administration / Urban Health Services and a certificate in Advanced Policy Analysis from Old Dominion University.

  • Faculty +

      • Martha Agbeli, DNP, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC Martha Agbeli, DNP, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC

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      • Jayme Ambrose, DNP, MS, BSN, RN, CCM Jayme Ambrose, DNP, MS, BSN, RN, CCM

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      • Leanna Brown, DNP, MBA, ACNP-BC Leanna Brown, DNP, MBA, ACNP-BC

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      • Diane Drexler, DNP, MBA, BSN, RN, FACHE Diane Drexler, DNP, MBA, BSN, RN, FACHE

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      • Helen Ewing, DHSc, MN, BN, RN Helen Ewing, DHSc, MN, BN, RN

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      • Michelle Goldbach, DNP, MHA, BSN, RN, CHPN Michelle Goldbach, DNP, MHA, BSN, RN, CHPN

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      • Jeremy Hodder, DHSc, MSc, PG Dip Law, BScN (Hons), RN, CPHRM Jeremy Hodder, DHSc, MSc, PG Dip Law, BScN (Hons), RN, CPHRM

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      • Clair Lunt, DHSc, MEd, MN, RN Clair Lunt, DHSc, MEd, MN, RN

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      • Lisa Palucci, DNP, MSN, BSN, RN, NE-BC, CPHQ, CSSGB Lisa Palucci, DNP, MSN, BSN, RN, NE-BC, CPHQ, CSSGB

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      • Elizabeth Segura, DNP, BSN, APRN, FNP-BC Elizabeth Segura, DNP, BSN, APRN, FNP-BC

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      • Judith Vaughan, DNP, MSN, BSN, RN Judith Vaughan, DNP, MSN, BSN, RN

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      • Bobbi Winter, DHSc, MBA, MSN, RN Bobbi Winter, DHSc, MBA, MSN, RN

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Master of Science in Nursing Degree Admissions

ATSU admits nurses into the MSN program who have a BSN or a BSN and a non-nursing master’s degree and who meet the requirements.

Prospective students are selected by considering the overall qualities of applicants through a thorough review of application content, academic record, prior experience, and personal motivation.

  • Requirements +

      1. Application:
        • Completed and signed admissions application along with a nonrefundable application fee.
      2. Academic:
        • An accredited degree from a university recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (bachelor’s degree for masters programs and a master’s degree for doctoral programs). Applicants who graduated from a university outside the United States may have to provide a degree equivalency evaluation.*
        • Official transcript from the qualifying degree-granting institution. For students using VA benefits transcripts for all institutions attended are required.
        • Minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) at the qualifying degree institution.
        • Evidence of a current unencumbered RN license held in the state in which the attainment of applied non-clinical skills hours will occur.
      3. Elements of success:
        • A current resume.
        • Completion of a brief essay.
        • English proficiency **
        • Meet ATSU technology requirements.***

      *Applicants who have graduated from a foreign college or university should submit acceptable evidence of U.S. degree/course equivalency. All course work taken at the foreign institution must be evaluated for American institution equivalence by one of the following services:

      • World Education Services P.O. Box 5087 Bowling Green Station New York, NY 10274-5087 p: (212) 966-6311 f: (212) 739-6139
      • Educational Credential Evaluators, Inc. P.O. Box 514070 Milwaukee, WI 53203-3470 (414) 289-3400
      • American Assn. of Collegiate Registrars & Admissions Officers One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 520 Washington, DC 20036-1135 (202) 293-9161
      • Josef Silny & Associates, Inc. International Education Consultants 7101 SW 102 Avenue Miami FL 33173 p: (305) 273 -1616 f: (305) 273 -1338
      • Intl. Education Research Foundation, Inc. PO Box 3665 Culver City, CA 90231-3665 (310) 258-9451

      • **Applicants are required to demonstrate proficiency in English when applying to A.T. Still University’s College of Graduate Studies. Written and spoken proficiency in the English language may be demonstrated by one of the following options:
        The Computer Based Test (CBT), Internet Based Test (iBT), or the Paper Based Test (PBT) are accepted. The following are the minimum required score based on test type:
        The TOEFL is administered by TOEFL/TSE Services, P.O. Box 6151, Princeton, NJ, 08541-6151, USA 609. 771.7100. A.T. Still University’s institutional code is 0339. Please be sure to include this information when you submit your application packet. TOEFL Educational Testing Services P.O. Box 6151 Princeton, NJ 08541-6151, 609.771.7100
        ***ATSU technology requirements
      • Option 1 - English is your first language.
      • Option 2 - Graduated from a regionally accredited four year college/university in the United States with a BA/BS or graduate degree.
      • Option 3 - You are demonstrating your English proficiency by submitting acceptable scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
      • Acceptable minimal scores for CGHS applications are:

      • CBT - minimum total score of 213 Minimum of 22/Reading Skills section | Minimum of 26/Writing Skills section
      • iBT - minimum total score of 80 Minimum of 22/Reading Skills section | Minimum of 24/Writing Skills section
      • PBT - minimum total score of 550 Minimum of 57/Reading Skills section | Minimum of 61/Writing Skills section
  • Tuition+

    • Review tuition and fees for the Master of Science in Nursing program. Please note tuition and fees are subject to change.

The Family and Culture

Doctor shaking hands with man in suit Doctor, nurse, business men looking at paper work Business people around conference table Business man and doctor shaking hands Doctors and business men around laptop smiling Doctor showing business man charts Man reviewing graph charts Business man showing graphs to doctors Business people conversing


Master of Science in Nursing Curriculum Overview

The MSN features leading edge information contributed by nurses in advanced practice, and from those who are nurse administrators, managers, leaders, and educators. Student learning is enhanced by using the ATSU-CGHS approach of providing broad training, integrated online instruction, directed readings, email, and chat room interactions.

Curriculum is grounded in research and designed to ensure competency achievement through authentic embedded assessments. These are driven by the MSN learning outcomes and applied clinical skills and a foundational competency framework built from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN) The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing and AACN’s Graduate-Level Quality and Safety Education in Nursing Competencies (QSEN).

Courses include content in nursing science, evidence-based practice, planning and evaluation, health assessment, policy and ethics, managing healthcare systems, leadership and interprofessional collaboration, and healthcare information systems. In addition, students build skills in whole person self-care, resilience, and reflective practice.

Course content is enriched with 500 hours of the required master’s-level GNP applied clinical skills earned through the completion of specific assignments found in all MSN courses. Examples of applied clinical skills include advocacy, consultation, coaching, employee engagement, mentoring, and population health management.

MSN students complete a professional practice portfolio. In this culminating course, students assume a leadership role as they respond to a needed change within a healthcare system, in practice, in an educational setting, or advocating for a health policy locally or globally. In portfolio, students also assess how well they demonstrated expected competencies including those in whole person self-care and reflective practice.

  • MSNP 5000 Organizational and Nursing Theory (3 credit hours) +

    • The study of the interaction between the external environment and internal organizational factors on healthcare organizations will be examined within a theoretical perspective. An emphasis is on effective communication, including both verbal and written, and professionalism among individuals within an organization.

  • MSNP 5100 Human Resource Management (3 credit hours)+

    • This course analyzes concepts that impact employee motivation, interpersonal relationships, group dynamics, leadership, teams, and organizational culture. Students will be exposed to strategic human resource management and the need to align human resource practices with an organization’s mission and strategic plan.  In addition, nursing standards and practice policies will be examined. 

  • MSNP 5200 Evidence-Based Practice and Technologies (3 credit hours) +

    • This course examines the concepts associated with evidence-based nursing practice, preparing the student to analyze practice or leadership policies and identify gaps where evidence is lacking. Coverage of various healthcare-related technologies is presented along with foundational statistical analysis methods.

  • MSNP 5300 Health Economics and Financial Management (3 credit hours) +

    • Students learn key financial and economic principles to inform fiscal decision-making and overall organizational finance strategy to support quality care delivery to improve healthcare outcomes. Emphasis is on the general economic environment as it relates to healthcare delivery, cost-effectiveness of providing care, evaluation of financial processes, staffing, and budgeting. 

  • MSNP 5400 Healthcare Policy and Ethics (3 credit hours) +

    • Students are exposed to how policy and ethics affect healthcare delivery. Topics include leadership in health care reform, social justice, equity, health policy analysis and development, and advocacy. The course focuses on preparing advance practice nurses to analyze and influence health policies. In addition, students are exposed to the role of the advocate for underrepresented, diverse and underserved populations. 

    • Students use statistical information and scientific data to identify trends in healthcare. Epidemiology is examined further as it relates to determinants of health in a public health environment. Students will identify strategic initiatives and measurable practice outcomes to improve patient and population health.

  • MSNP 5600 Interprofessional Topics (3 credit hours) +

    • This course exposes students to interprofessional topics of a variety of communities of interest. Interprofessional collaboration strategies, resiliency and self-care of the nurse leader will be explored. Emphasis is on furthering the scholarship of nursing, professional development and acquisition of nursing expertise. 

  • MSNP 5700 Quality Improvement and Safety (3 credit hours)+

    • This course provides an overview of a quality improvement practice within the healthcare setting. Students learn the process of implementing quality improvement strategies to deliver safe, high-quality advanced nursing care for diverse populations within a risk management perspective. Students will develop an idea for their capstone QI project. 

  • MSNP 5800 Strategic Planning and Project Development (3 credit hours) +

    • Students learn the importance of leadership in strategic planning and project development. Effective communication strategies and innovation will be a focus to develop innovative strategic initiatives for the healthcare environment. Students will blueprint their capstone QI project, with evidence, for their practicum experience.

  • MSNP 5900 Practicum Course (6 credit hours – 250 practicum hours)+

    • Students will have the opportunity to operationalize the strategic nursing leadership role in appropriate agencies and facilities in conjunction with an expert nursing leader. Students will complete clinical hours within a healthcare facility under the guidance of a site preceptor and a faculty member within the nursing program and execute their capstone QI project.