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MSN – Health Systems Leadership

Gonzaga University’s online Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) Health Systems Leadership (HSL) Option incorporates knowledge from business, organizational behavior, quality improvement, health care law, and nursing to teach you how to devise innovative solutions to today’s complex health care problems.

The online MSN Health Systems Leadership option prepares registered nurses to assume leadership and administrative positions in inpatient, outpatient and community-based settings. Students gain knowledge and competency in financial and human capital management and learn strategies for responding to the ethical and legal issues encountered in administrative roles.

Course Descriptions (36 credits) & Immersion

 MSN Core Courses

(current since Fall 2013)

NOTE: 8-Week Sessions: Each semester contains two 8-week sessions taken one after another (fall and spring only). Courses outside the MSN Core and Health Systems Leadership Core are 16 weeks in length.

NURS 561 – Information Technology & Data Management (3 cr)

This course explores the many uses of information technology and data management. The course provides learners with the knowledge and skills in information and healthcare technology needed to enhance communication and interprofessional collaboration in the current healthcare environment. The process of locating, accessing, and analyzing information and data is applied to advanced practice roles, enhancing patient safety, quality and outcomes, and improving population health.

NURS 562 – Theoretical Foundations for Healthcare Improvement (3 cr)

This course provides a theoretical orientation to become change agents in a variety of healthcare settings and diverse practice populations. The course provides learners with a foundation in theories significant to nursing practice such as complex adaptive systems, organizational and change theory, leadership and team-building models, and quality improvement and care models needed to assess, design, plan, implement, and evaluate a quality improvement project to promote patient-centered care and improve program outcomes.

NURS 563 – Evidence-Based Practice for Quality and Safety (3 cr)

This course provides learners with a theoretical and practical foundation for identifying and critically appraising evidence from qualitative and quantitative research traditions.  The emphasis is on the examination of the essential elements of evidence-based-practice, including the formulation of answerable questions to address quality improvement and safety in a variety of advance practice roles and the systematic search for research evidence that can be used to answer researchable questions.

NURS 564 – Contemporary Healthcare Environment (3 cr)

This course explores the ethical and legal principles of healthcare and their impact on accessible, affordable, and quality care. This course provides learners with a framework for discussing ethical and legal issues with an emphasis on the ethical delivery of care to individuals, families, and populations. The scope and standards of advanced nursing roles will be examined along with current issues and policies that address health care disparities, health care organizations, financing, and quality. Strategies for analyzing and influencing public, professional, and institutional policies related to health care and its delivery will be considered.

NURS 565 – Clinical Prevention for Diverse Populations (3 cr)

The focus of this course is on the development of health promotion and disease prevention programs for diverse groups and populations. Selected concepts of epidemiology, broad determinants of health, population health, clinical prevention and cultural competence will be examined as they relate to the design and delivery of equitable clinical prevention and health promotion interventions and/or services to individuals, families, communities, and aggregates clinical populations.

Health Systems Leadership Core

NURS 641A — Nursing Leadership Development (3 cr)

This course advances the student’s understanding of concepts introduced in the common core with a focus on the role of the nursing leader within the complexity of healthcare organizations. Emphasis is placed on the development of a professional plan and portfolio that reflect the intentional selection of a personal model of nurse leadership. Consideration is given to the use of change management theories in promoting organizational as well as personal and professional changes.

NURS 642A — Quality and Information Management  (3 cr)

This course focuses on the information management skills essential for effective nursing leadership in complex healthcare settings. Topics to be addressed include clinical information systems, benchmarking, and quality monitoring.

NURS 643A — Communication and Relationship Management  (3 cr)

This course addresses the role of the nurse as a healthcare systems leader in developing and sustaining relationships with employees and other healthcare providers within complex healthcare environments. Course content will address communication strategies, relationship management, conflict management and negotiation skills, and evaluation. Concepts related to legal, regulatory, and ethical aspects of employee hiring, performance evaluation, and termination will be reviewed. Consideration will be given to succession management.

NURS 644A — Health Care Management (3 cr)

This course focuses on the financial management skills essential for effective nursing leadership in complex healthcare settings. Topics to be addressed include financing, administrative, financial,  cost accounting systems, and budget development and oversight.

NURS 645A — Legal, Regulatory, and Ethical Healthcare (3 cr)

This course addresses the role of the nurse as a health systems leader in relation to legal, regulatory, and ethical considerations in health care environments. Complex adaptive systems is used as the framework for examining legal and regulatory constraints that affect care delivery, patient and employee rights and responsibilities, and quality management, including patient safety  and risk management. Tension between legal and ethical guidelines will be explored.

Health Care Leadership Practicum Courses (6 credits)


NURS 631A —  Health Systems Leader Practicum I (1-3 cr)

This practicum integrates knowledge from the didactic courses in the health organization setting.

NURS 632A — Health Systems Leader Practicum II (1-3 cr)

This practicum integrates knowledge from the didactic courses in the health organization setting. Prerequisite:  NURS 631A

NURS 633A — Health Systems Leader Practicum III (1-3 cr)

This practicum integrates knowledge from the didactic courses in the health organization setting. Prerequisite:  NURS 632A

One Required Immersion (Campus visit)

There is a required two-day, on-campus immersion during the last practicum course. Practicum experiences are arranged by the student to meet identified learning needs.

NURS 631A Health System Leadership Practicum l No on-campus immersions
NURS 632A Health Systems Leadership Practicum llPrerequisite: NURS 631A No on-campus immersions
NURS 633A Health Systems Leadership Practicum lllPrerequisite: NURS 632A One 2-day, on-campus immersion

Program information is subject to change. Contact an Admission Counselor for further questions.

Career Paths & Salary Info

A nursing professional with an MSN in leadership of health systems typically finds employment as a nurse leader in a health care facility or a health care system. In today’s health care environment, strong leadership is essential for quality patient care. Health Care Administrators must be prepared to deal with changing health care delivery systems, technological innovations, an increasingly complex regulatory environment, restructuring of work, and an increased focus on preventive care.

Types of jobs that may be available to MSN graduates with this specialization include:

  • Care Management Coordinator: Oversees the implementation of medical management services including but not limited to inpatient care coordination, discharge planning, case management, pre-certification, and monitoring of daily patient progress to ensure patient care goals are met and resources are used properly.
  • Nurse Manager: Plans and implements the overall nursing policies, procedures, and services for one or more nursing units or services. Maintains nursing staff by recruiting, selecting, orienting, and training clinical staff. Ensures that nurses are current in competencies, licensure, certifications, and other annual training. May provide direct patient care and is responsible for assessing, planning, and evaluating patient care.
  • Chief Nursing Executive: Plans and directs all patient services. Develops and implements nursing policies, objectives, and initiatives. Reviews nursing department operations to ensure compliance with established standards and budgets. Ensures that all patients receive the highest quality care.

Great news for Medical and Health Services Managers – the market shows a faster than average growth in employment.

  • Median wages (2015): $45.43 hourly, $94,500 annual
  • Employment (2012): 316,000 employees
  • Projected growth (2014-2024): Much faster than average (14% or higher)
  • Projected job openings (2014-2024): 140,500

Source: Department of Labor Affiliate Site O*NET

These salary and employment projections are for informational purposes only and are in no way a guarantee of program outcomes.

Why Gonzaga Nursing?

  • Pass Rates: Our students consistently achieve pass rates well above the national pass rate averages.
  • Practicing Faculty: All nurse practitioner faculty actively work in health care and provide students access to current health care policy issues, evolving trends, and real-world challenges facing the industry.
  • Accessible and Flexible: You have complete access to professors as needed through online discussion boards, email, and scheduled phone or skype appointments. Your coursework can be accessed from anywhere thanks to a convenient online environment.
  • Jesuit: Gonzaga online nursing students experience the subtle, yet intentional infusion of the Jesuit mission of men and women for others. This humanistic approach creates a community that encourages an exchange of knowledge with and among each other—the faculty, the students, and the communities in which they live and work to impact change.
  • Systems thinking: Graduates of Gonzaga’s Nursing programs are prepared to engage in systems thinking to solve complex problems, translate evidence to improve health care practices and population health, lead quality improvement and change initiatives, and demonstrate effective intraprofessional collaboration.


192797_CCNE_logoGonzaga is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The baccalaureate, MSN, and DNP programs at Gonzaga University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, One Dupont Circle NW, Suite 530, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 887-6791.

Application Deadlines:

  • Health Systems Leadership – March 2018 Start Deadline, January 22nd
  • All nursing programs (except HSL) – May 2018 Start Deadline, December 18th
  • Apply Now

At a Glance


36 credits

Average completion time

6-7 semesters

Cost per credit



Online Course Delivery


One on-campus immersion in Spokane, WA

Admission cycles

Fall, Spring, & Summer


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“#13 Best Alumni Network” by Princeton Review, 2015

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