Continuing Your Career in Nursing Science with a PhD
Nurses that have had clinical experience and training may be the first people to identify problems and solutions within the profession. Working nurses are, after all, the people who deal with the day-to-day consequences of healthcare policy, disease management, and the administrative concerns of hospitals and clinics. If you’re interested in continuing a theoretical, research-based inquiry, you might want to explore these problems in an academic setting.
Because pursuing an advanced degree in nursing science or nursing practice is a serious commitment, it’s important to understand what’s required of students pursuing doctoral degrees. Whether you’re interested in a traditional or an online PhD in nursing, it’s also important to see how these degrees fit into your life and career goals before investing time, money, and other resources.
Choosing Between a PhD and a DNP
The nursing profession has needed to respond to the changing context in which patients are assisted. To provide leadership in the increasingly complex healthcare system, the American Association of Colleges and Nursing (AACN) has recommended that the field transition its graduate level degrees (master’s in nursing) to doctoral degrees.
The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in nursing science is offered to prepare scholars in rigorous scientific research. They study problems in healthcare delivery and the new areas of knowledge that today’s nurses encounter. As a research-oriented degree, PhDs in nursing science can expect to work in the academic contexts of universities and health institutes and not the patient-care settings of hospitals and clinics.
The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is considered the terminal practice-oriented degree that follows the bachelor’s of nursing science (BSN.) These graduates continue to work in clinical settings and provide patient care. As practical nursing experience is the cornerstone of this degree, the DNP is a better choice for those who would like to continue working alongside patients and medical staff in the clinic.
Finding the Program for You
Registered nurses (RNs) who have earned their BSN are eligible for a number of BSN to DNP programs that bridge the gap in requirements between both degrees. These new programs allow RNs with the educational background and professional experience of a BSN to start their doctoral studies. They’ll also usually allow students to specialize in a particular subfield (like pediatric care or psychiatric/mental health) through sustained study and practice in the clinic. This makes them invaluable in hospitals and other clinical environments, where they may assume leadership positions.
The PhD in nursing science emphasizes more research, and thus, abstract and theoretical thinking. PhDs often pursue employment as faculty members and teachers in schools of nursing. They may also serve as experts for government and policy organizations that work to improve public health, hospital administration, and education.
Prospective students should be aware that a PhD in nursing science might not necessarily guarantee advancement in healthcare and patient care settings. Nurses wishing to continue their careers in hospitals and with patients should instead consider the DNP degree.
Find Accredited Online PhD Nursing Degrees
You should first determine whether the PhD fits your career goals and work schedule. If you’re ready to earn your PhD, it’s crucial that you consider your prospective program’s reputation, curriculum, and teaching philosophy. As more students look for institutions that offer online nursing PhD programs, it’s important to understand exactly how much time, labor, and finances are required to graduate before you apply.
Requirements vary, but you can generally expect your doctoral studies to culminate in a dissertation after at least two years of required coursework. Speak with academic and admissions advisors at each of the programs to which you’re applying for specific information. Pursuing a PhD in nursing online does not preclude face-to-face contact at seminars and conferences, written and oral examinations, or other meetings. You might also ask about career prospects and your eligibility as a nursing scientist once you’ve finished.
Wherever you decide to attend, you’ll want to make sure that your training is rigorous and prepares you to perform cutting-edge research alongside your colleagues at other universities and institutions. A quality PhD program will prepare you to focus on a particular aspect or problem in the field of nursing as well as publish and present new knowledge about your unique topic.
Funding Your Doctoral Studies in Nursing
As a long-term career decision, doctoral studies in nursing should not be taken lightly. Because they will require you to become an expert in an aspect of nursing science, you can expect to spend anywhere between four and six years taking courses, performing research, and writing a dissertation.
Because this intensive period of study will have significant impacts on your ability to work full-time, look for programs that offer funding packages that cover tuition expenses as well as a living stipend. Use resources on campus to help you identify scholarships and fellowships, and do stay on top of deadlines for federal grants and loans. Securing funding for your degree will help you focus on your research, complete your degree on time, and help you enter the field earlier.