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Purpose of this Manual

Welcome to the field experience component of Walden University’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program. This manual describes the structure and timing of the classroom-based and on-site practicum experiences, as well as the policies students must follow to be successful.

This manual is intended to provide MSN students with the information they need related to practicum policies and procedures, as well as to serve as a reference for practicum preceptors and others involved in the practicum experience. Information in this manual is provided for students enrolled in the traditional course-based modality and for students enrolled in the Tempo Learning® modality. Tempo Learning is Walden’s competency-based education (CBE) modality, an alternative way of earning the MSN degree.

Special Note to RN to MSN Students: Students in the RN to MSN program complete a portion of their practicum requirements at the undergraduate level. RN to MSN students should also refer to the Undergraduate Practicum Manual for guidance related to their undergraduate practicum experiences. The Undergraduate Practicum Manual can be found on the College of Nursing Office of Field Experience Student Manuals and Resources page.

This manual refers to the Walden University Catalog and the Walden University Student Handbook for specific information on university policies and courses.

This document does NOT create a contract to provide any particular service or benefit.

Note: Walden University reserves the right to make program changes, as needed, to ensure the highest quality program.

Walden University

The MSN program at Walden University is designed to promote Walden University’s vision, mission, and ongoing commitment to social change. These guiding principles serve as a framework for the program curriculum and outcomes and are included here as a reference.


Walden University envisions a distinctively different 21st-century learning community where knowledge is judged worthy to the degree that it can be applied by its graduates to the immediate solutions of critical societal challenges, thereby advancing the greater global good.


Walden University provides a diverse community of career professionals with the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners so that they can effect positive social change.

Social Change

Walden University defines positive social change as a deliberate process of creating and applying ideas, strategies, and actions to promote the worth, dignity, and development of individuals, communities, organizations, institutions, cultures, and societies. Positive social change results in the improvement of human and social conditions.

College of Nursing


The College of Nursing will be recognized for its preeminent programs and innovative educational approaches that prepare distinguished graduates to advance the greater good of global communities.


The College of Nursing, dedicated to excellence in nursing education, provides programs to transform diverse nursing professionals into champions of change who will improve health outcomes and advance health equity.


The goals of the College of Nursing at Walden are to:

  • Empower diverse nursing professionals through academic advancement that enhances personal growth, professional development, clinical reasoning, and the desire for life-long learning.
  • Create an inclusive teaching and learning environment where students expand on their existing professional nursing knowledge, to improve workplace and healthcare outcomes.
  • Provide educational approaches that address the complex needs of adult learners and support academic quality and integrity.
  • Prepare learners as scholar practitioners to use evidence-based practice that exemplifies and supports professional nursing standards.
  • Prepare professional nursing leaders who are empowered to promote positive social change for individuals, families, and populations by addressing the social determinants of health locally, nationally, and globally.

MSN Program Outcomes

At the end of the MSN program, students will be able to:

  • Synthesize organizational/systems leadership for cost-effective specialist nursing practice that contributes to high-quality healthcare delivery, advancement of the nursing profession, and social change
  • Critique evidence-based literature drawing from diverse theoretical perspectives and pertinent research to guide decision making that demonstrates best practices for specialist nursing practice in a global society
  • Integratively assess, diagnose, plan, implement, and evaluate cost-effective healthcare strategies that reduce health disparities by patient/population advocacy for access to specialist nursing care
  • Demonstrate the ability to effectively communicate using audience-specific oral, written, and information technology for professional delivery of specialist nursing care.
  • Evaluate health needs of diverse populations for necessary teaching/coaching functions based on specialist nursing knowledge to restore/promote health and prevent illness/injury
  • Exhibit ongoing commitment to professional development and value of nursing theories/ethical principles (altruism, autonomy, human dignity, integrity, social justice) in accordance with ethically responsible, legally accountable, specialist nursing practice
  • Implement specialist nursing roles to promote quality improvement of patient-centered care in accordance with professional practice standards that transform health outcomes for diverse populations

For graduate specialty programs, the College of Nursing uses the following guidelines and standards to inform the curriculum and professional behavior:

  • The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing (AACN, 2011)
  • The Scope of Practice for Academic Nurse Educators (National League for Nursing [NLN], 2012)
  • Nursing Professional Development: Scope and Standards of Practice, 3rd edition (Association for Nursing Professional Development [ANPD], 2016)
  • Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practice (ANA, 2014)
  • Nurse Executive Competencies (Association of Nurse Leaders [AONL], 2015)
  • Public Health Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice, 2nd edition (ANA, 2013)
  • Core Competencies of Public Health Professionals (The Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice, 2014)
  • Guide to the Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretative Statements (American Nurses Association [ANA], 2015)
  • Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice (ANA, 2015)

Learning Modalities

The MSN-SP program is offered in two different learning modalities:

  • Course-Based Modality: Traditional online courses are led by a Faculty-Instructor with a structured schedule and deadlines. Students spend a fixed amount of time within the online class following a term schedule and Learning Objectives.
  • Competency-Based Modality: The Tempo Learning® experience is competency-based, meaning students progress by demonstrating knowledge of a subject in a particular area of study and mastery of skills by passing assessments after completing learning resources. The experience provides flexible scheduling, where students set their own pace with the support of a Faculty-Instructor, who is called the subject matter expert (SME), and an academic coach.


  • The terms “Faculty” and “Instructor,” used in this manual, include the SME in the Tempo Learning® program.
  • The term “course” used in this manual includes practicum competencies and areas of expertise (AOEs) in the Tempo Learning® program.

Field Experience Terms

For the purposes of this manual, the following terms are defined in this way:


A practicum is a distinctly defined supervised practical, hands-on experience in which students develop basic applied skills and integrate professional knowledge. A practicum takes place at a field site, providing students with experiences to support learning and developing competencies in their profession.

The MSN practicum consists of online courses that students take at the end of their program of study. In addition to the online classroom component, the practicum includes an applied practice on-site experience as described in this manual, in which students are required to complete a project. The didactic (classroom) and clinical components of the practicum courses are integrated. Depending on the specialization, students must complete either 144 or 216 hours of supervised experience:

  • Students in the Nurse Executive specialization must complete NURS 6600: Capstone Synthesis Practicum, with a minimum of 144 hours of supervised experience
    • For post-master’s Nurse Executive Certificate students, NURS 6600 is optional and not required for completion of the certificate.
  • Students in the Nursing Education specialization must complete NURS 6341: Specialty in Clinical Nursing and 6351: Role of the Nurse Educator, with a minimum of 144 hours of supervised experience (72 hours in each course). In NURS 6341, students advance their knowledge and assessments skills within a selected clinical specialty.
    • For post-master’s Certificate in Nursing Education students, NURS 6341 is not required for completion of the certificate. NURS 6351 is required for completion of the certificate.
  • Students in the Nursing Informatics specialization must complete the following:
    • For students enrolled with a catalog prior to Spring 2019: NURS 6431 (72 hours) and NRSE 6600 (144 hours), totaling 216 hours of supervised experience, is required.
    • For students enrolled with a catalog beginning Spring 2019: NURS 6461, with a minimum of 216 hours of supervised experience, is required.
    • For post-master’s Certificate in Nursing Informatics students, enrolled with a catalog prior to Spring 2019: NURS 6431 is required for completion of the certificate. NURS 6600 is optional and not required for completion of the certificate.
    • For post-master’s Certificate students enrolled with a catalog beginning Spring 2019: NURS 6461 is optional and not required for completion of the certificate.
  • Students in the Public Health Nursing specialization must complete NURS 6720: Population-Based Public Health Nursing Interventions (216 hours) and NURS 6730: Public Health Nursing Leadership (144 hours), totaling 360 hours of supervised experience.

Practicum Site

A practicum site is a healthcare facility, health agency, school, or other appropriate setting at which students participate in supervised, on-site applied practice experiences that are consistent with their education and meet the requirements of their program. The practicum site enters into an Affiliation Agreement with Walden University to provide a safe and appropriate supervised learning experience. The practicum site also establishes the policies, procedures, and protocols that students are expected to follow while working at the site. Virtual practicum experiences are not allowed for practicum.


Supervision by a preceptor is composed of a tutorial and mentoring form of instruction in which practicum preceptors monitor student activities in the practicum and facilitate learning and skill-development experiences. Preceptors guide students and provide feedback on their practicum work.


Onboarding is a specific set of pre-practicum requirements, established by the Walden College of Nursing—and based on the most common field site requirements—that will better prepare students to qualify for a wide range of field sites. These onboarding requirements vary from state to state; however, they generally include a background check, state-specific background screens (e.g., Abuse Screens, Fingerprinting, etc.), drug screening, health requirements, required training, and professional liability insurance, as well as additional onboarding requirements that may be required by the field site. If an approved field site requires something in addition to what is required by Walden University, an additional package can be obtained through CastleBranch, at the request of the Office of Field Experience, to fulfill those requirements.

Field Experience Roles


Preceptors are qualified nurses, within a practicum site, who are responsible for guiding student practicum experiences and providing ongoing feedback on their practicum work (see Preceptor Requirements).

  • Preceptors are qualified individuals employed by the practicum site.
  • Preceptors are responsible for supervising students during their practicum experiences.
  • Preceptors provide mentoring and guidance appropriate to student roles in their practicum sites, including orienting students to the facility, personnel, policies, and procedures; providing ongoing feedback about student progress in meeting practicum goals; and completing evaluations to assess student work during practicum.
  • Preceptors provide students opportunities for role analysis, as well as the application of skills and knowledge.
  • Preceptors and Faculty collaborate throughout the practicum experience to ensure that the student is meeting the clinical outcomes and performance objectives. This includes meeting with the student’s Course Faculty as required.
  • Walden expects preceptors to be accessible to students and to provide guidance and feedback that promotes growth of knowledge, skills, and competencies consistent with Walden University educational goals, as well as with best nursing practices.

Walden provides guidelines to the students on how to identify a qualified preceptor and practicum site that will provide them with a learning experience that satisfies program requirements and meets their specific needs and interests.


Students at Walden are considered to be adult learners who are capable of seeking educational opportunities to meet their personal and professional goals. Walden expects students to collaborate with Faculty Members and be self-directed to meet educational requirements. Students work with Faculty Members and preceptors to ensure they obtain a well-rounded educational experience.

Because each student and each practicum experience are unique, students play a critical role in the practicum placement process.

  • At Walden, as in many MSN-SP programs in the United States, students begin the practicum process by identifying a possible practicum site and preceptor for each practicum course and for submitting a timely and complete field experience application for each of the required practicum courses.
  • Students do not need to identify a preceptor before beginning their program. Once students begin their studies, Walden will provide them with information on how to identify a potential practicum site and preceptor.
  • The practicum process is an important part of the student learning experience:
    • The identification of a site and preceptor provides students opportunities to hone skills needed as a competent and successful nursing professional. For example, by engaging in the practicum process, students can:
      • Develop and practice important networking skills.
      • Simulate a job search in their desired future role.
      • Explore various practice areas through the preceptor research process.
      • Learn what it might be like to work in a particular practice setting.
      • Interact with leaders in healthcare settings similar to those in which they may eventually practice.

Note on the importance of networking: Students should plan to engage in networking early in their program to identify potential preceptors. Some students may not fully understand what effective networking entails. Others may think that they can use one individual or site location from their existing network, not realizing the site or preceptor may not meet their program requirements, that the site may be part of a health system that does not affiliate with Walden, or that the site or preceptor are not available or a good match for other reasons.

Student Expectations

Students are expected to do the following (note that this list is not exhaustive, and students are expected to meet all expectations set forth in this manual, the student handbook, and catalog for successful completion of the program):

  • Develop a learning contract to meet Course Objectives and Learning Outcomes for the practicum.
  • Adhere to the learning contract as established by the student, Faculty Member, and preceptor.
  • Comply with the policies, procedures, and protocols established by the practicum site.
  • Seek and be receptive to direct and indirect supervision from the Faculty Member and preceptor.
  • Be appropriately prepared for each practicum experience.
  • Incorporate theory and research into practicum practice to provide evidence-based care to patients.
  • Provide safe, competent, and quality care under the supervision of the preceptor.
  • Conduct themselves in an ethical and professional manner at all times.
  • Use acquired knowledge and clinical skills for the appropriate practicum setting.
  • Use various educational resources to provide evidence-based care to patients.
  • Be on time at the practicum site and be prepared for each practicum session.
  • Develop a clear and concise plan to meet course outcomes.
  • Be respectful and professional.
  • Participate in regular conferences with the Faculty Member and preceptor.
  • Seek and be receptive to regular feedback from the Faculty Member and preceptor about progress in the practicum setting.
  • Adhere to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines at all times.
  • Adhere to all Walden academic integrity policies, which include (but are not limited to) prohibitions on plagiarism, cheating, and providing false information during the practicum application process, in course assignments, and in all practicum records.
  • Maintain a truthful and accurate practicum journal, activity log, and other pertinent practicum records reflective of their own direct practicum experience as required by the Faculty Member and/or preceptor.
  • Be adaptable and flexible learners.
  • Evaluate the course, practicum experience, and preceptor.
  • Develop long-term and short-term goals during the program.
  • Participate in group and individual conferences.
  • Complete the required hours needed for the didactic and practicum portions of the courses.
  • Satisfy all applicable academic standards and course expectations.
  • Contact the Faculty Member and practicum site if unable to attend a practicum experience.
  • Use critical-thinking skills and sound clinical judgment in providing patient care.
  • Timely notify the Office of Field Experience if their preceptor or practicum site becomes unavailable for any reason.
  • Timely notify the Office of Field Experience if they move to another state or country while they are enrolled in the program.
  • Notify the College of Nursing’s Office of Certification, Licensure, and Compliance immediately, if their license becomes encumbered for any reason.


Walden is responsible for incorporating a practicum experience into its programs and ensuring availability of adequate resources for students to participate in the practicum required for completion of the program. Walden provides support for students throughout the practicum process and student field experience. Walden’s practicum process meets CCNE accreditation standards.

Practicum Course Faculty Members or Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Walden nursing Faculty Members or SMEs, who are doctorally prepared, teach the didactic portion of each practicum course; manage the practicum experience; grade student work and assessments related to the practicum experience; assign final grades for the course; and communicate with preceptors regarding students’ successful mastery of all competencies. SMEs are Faculty Members assigned to students within the Tempo Learning® modality. Practicum course Faculty Members and SMEs collaborate with students and inform specialization coordinators about any difficulties that arise during the practicum experience.

Specialization Coordinators

Specialization coordinators are doctorally prepared Walden Faculty Members whose primary role regarding the MSN practicum is to oversee the experience for a given MSN specialization (i.e., Nurse Executive, Nursing Education, Nursing Informatics, Public Health Nursing). The specialization coordinators are an important resource for students during the program, especially if any problems arise during the practicum.

Associate Dean/Program Director

The program director is a doctorally prepared, full-time academic administrator who reports to the dean and supervises the specialization coordinators and Faculty. The program director’s primary role is to maintain the quality and integrity of the degree program and to oversee day-to-day program management. While working with specialization coordinators, the program director supports students throughout the specializations in the MSN program (MSN-SP), including during the practicum experience.

Office of Field Experience

Walden’s Office of Field Experience in the College of Nursing is responsible for managing the practicum application process, ensuring that student practicums meet program requirements, and supporting students through the practicum process. Office of Field Experience staff are dedicated to supporting nursing students through the practicum process from the time students enter the program until their last practicum has been completed.

The Office of Field Experience also provides technological resources to assist students in identifying appropriate field sites. The Office of Field Experience maintains a database of active Affiliation Agreements (known as the Affiliation Agreement Module, or Module) with healthcare facilities across the world. The Module is searchable, and students are encouraged to explore sites where Walden has an existing Affiliation Agreement in place.

In order to ensure that Walden has adequate resources for students, Walden University actively pursues Affiliation Agreements with new and existing field sites. Walden has been successful in establishing new Affiliation Agreements with field sites for all of its programs, as well as maintaining existing Affiliation Agreements with field sites as evidenced by the thousands of field experience agreements found in the Module.

Field Experience Coordinators

The Office of Field Experience is comprised of a team of field experience coordinators. Field experience coordinators are Walden employees who help students understand the practicum policies and procedures. Their role is to answer questions about the practicum application process; to assist students in identifying qualified practicum sites and preceptors, and in the instances, when necessary, support students by conducting outreach to potential sites and preceptors on students’ behalf; to review materials to help students ensure that they have completed all required application and documentation; and generally to assist with the practicum application and approval process. The field experience coordinators serve as a conduit between Faculty, students, sites, and others throughout the process, and work collaboratively with the specialization coordinators and the program director throughout the practicum approval process. Once practicum applications have been approved, the field experience coordinators ensure that students are enrolled in their appropriate practicum courses.

Field experience coordinators are assigned to students by region and have expertise about possible practicum sites in areas where students are located or desire to practice. There are six Office of Field Experience staff members assigned to each region to assist and support students through the practicum application process. The staff are assigned by role, and each is responsible to review the various components of practicum applications. The Office of Field Experience staff are assigned to the following roles by region:

  • Nursing field experience coordinator: Responsible for ensuring the preceptor and field site meet the course requirements. This coordinator approves the preceptor/field site section of the application. This coordinator holds student appointments to provide support and guidance on preceptor and field site course requirements.
  • Verification field experience coordinator: Responsible for ensuring students have completed the onboarding requirements. This coordinator reviews and approves the onboarding section of the application and reviews student accounts in CastleBranch. This coordinator holds student appointments to provide support and guidance on onboarding requirements.
  • Affiliation agreement field experience coordinator: Responsible for facilitating the Affiliation Agreement process with nominated field sites. This coordinator holds student appointments to provide updates and information on Affiliation Agreements. Please note that the actual contract negotiation is completed by a contract administrator on the Office of Student Experiential Learning Services’ Applied Learning Contracts Team at Walden.
  • Assistant field experience coordinators: Multiple coordinators are responsible for reviewing applications to include license reviews and preceptor forms, and they complete a degree audit to verify course prerequisites have been met. These staff members also process registrations for practicum courses.
  • Support field experience coordinator: Responsible for providing support for Meditrek® to include credentials, submitting applications, uploading documents, time logs, patient logs, and evaluations.
  • Field experience coordinator: Responsible for assisting students with the application process in general along with providing students support and guidance on searching for preceptors. This coordinator meets with students to provide support in searching for and identifying a site and preceptor nominee and understanding preceptors and field site requirements and to address general questions about practicum.
  • Field placement coordinator:  Responsible for coaching and assisting students searching for preceptors and sites.  This coordinator provides 1:1 coaching support in search for and identifying a site and preceptor.  This coordinator works with students through the Practicum Pledge service. 

The field experience coordinators are available to students via live chat, email, phone, and personal phone appointment. Students are encouraged to contact the Office of Field Experience and talk with a field experience coordinator early in their program for guidance and personal assistance.

Students may contact field experience coordinators for support via the Contact Us page.

Career Planning and Development

Walden’s Career Planning and Development is one possible starting point for students to begin to learn strategies for networking. The Career Planning and Development website has a full range of resources focused specifically on networking, covering topics such as:

  • Why is Networking Important?
  • Building Your Network
  • Networking Tips


Career Planning and Development also has an entire list of associations and professional development groups specific to nurses.

Walden’s goal is to assist every student in identifying and securing a practicum experience that meets the requirements for their degree programs, while giving students flexibility to conduct their field experiences in locations and with preceptors that best meet their needs.

Walden commits significant human and technology resources to this effort.

Working Together

Walden’s program directors, specialization coordinators, field experience coordinators, and practicum course Faculty Members or SMEs are committed to working collaboratively with students and preceptors to support the successful completion of practicum experiences.

Process for Mentoring and Evaluation of Students

The practicum process is collegial, with the recognition that students are adult learners who are capable of critical self-reflection, open to constructive feedback, and responsible for their own learning. Expectations for practicum performance correlate with the stage of student learning (i.e., greater practicum expertise is anticipated as students progress through the program).

Once students enroll in a practicum course or practicum competency (Tempo Learning®), they are mentored and evaluated by a preceptor and a Walden practicum course Faculty Member or a SME. Preceptors provide the experiences, supervise students in the practicum, and provide evaluations of student progress in meeting practicum course to Faculty Members or SME. Practicum course Faculty Members or SMEs grade student coursework and assessments and, in general, return student written work within Walden guidelines on returning grades. Students are encouraged to consult with practicum course Faculty Members or SMEs, by phone or email, about their progress throughout the quarter as stipulated in the Course Syllabus.

Practicum course Faculty Members or SMEs also maintain contact with students and preceptors throughout the quarter to determine whether student learning needs are being met at their practicum site and to monitor student clinical progress. This culminates in a practicum evaluation that is completed by the preceptor, in Meditrek®, toward the end of the quarter and submitted for review and final grading to the practicum course Faculty Member.