Doctoral Nursing Programs

Doctoral Nursing Programs

Doctoral programs for nursing are expected to rise in the next 10 years or so owing to tremendous job nursing demand that not even the recent influx of nurses from abroad may fill in.

It may also be due to the hiring of foreign nurses that nursing schools have installed advance nursing courses in order to enable homegrown American nurses to compete with the best in the growing labor force for nurses.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) even with the steady growth in the number of doctoral programs, the number of graduates remained flat.

This development, they said, comes at a time when the nursing service faces a serious future shortage of nursing faculty.

Along with this comes an increased demand for doctoral prepared nurses for administrative and clinical positions. With this in mind, nursing schools are now looking into a range of options for increasing the number of doctoral graduates.

These come via doctoral courses or programs that prepare nurses for careers in health administration--a PhD is required for nursing executives---clinical research and advanced clinical practice.

These programs may take a maximum four to six years to complete which takes a significant commitment on the part of the nurse or the nurse practitioner.


The need for continuing nursing education to better equip prospective nurses/nursing practitioners requires of course the completion of a four-year nursing degree which can be acquired through traditional or online schooling or course programs.

Nursing scholarships can also be availed of either by applying directly to schools or online. Upon reaching the status of registered nurse, the candidate is required to complete a state-approved advanced training program.

The program consists of specialization in a field of nursing like family practice, internal medicine, or women's health and can be secured through the following:

1) A community college, which grants an associate in arts degree

2) A hospital-based program, which grants a 3-year diploma
A university, which grants a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree

3) A university, which grants a master's of science in nursing (MSN) degree which is now usually the minimum degree required

4) A university, which grants a doctorate in nursing

Since the 60s most states, certifying agencies and employers require at least a master's degree in nursing with already established nurse practitioners "grandfathered in" or absorbed.

Per evaluation it was deemed that by 2015, all nursing programs will be at the doctoral level (DNP, DrNP).

Under a doctoral program every participant undergoes training in research methods including statistics and data analysis, history and philosophy of nursing science and leadership skills.

Although the nurse/nurse practitioner should gear his/her specific specialization on one's interests on a particular nursing job.

It is geared towards advancing the skills of practicing nurses particularly on nurse specialist skills with the overall goal of honing these nurses as leaders who can effect system re-design and evidenced-based decision-making in a variety of clinical, organizational and educational settings.

Some of the more established doctoral programs for nursing are the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs, Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs.

Due to the nursing profession being among the most diverse fields of career there are other nursing job related demands that may arise such as travel nursing in which applicants get the chance to work in short-term positions in the country's top hospitals.

There is also home nursing to meet either domestic or foreign demand for home health care.

Quality indicators

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) the indicators for quality on research focused doctoral nursing programs are the following:

1) These programs must represent and value a diversity of backgrounds and intellectual perspectives.

2) Should meet the requirements of the parent institution for graduate research and doctoral education with a substantial proportion of faculty hold earned doctorates in nursing.

3) Must conceive and undertake productive programs of research and scholarship developed over time and build upon previous established work that are at the cutting edge of the field of inquiry.

4) These programs should also be in line with research priorities within nursing and its constituent communities and include a substantial proportion of extramural funding that can eventually lure in and engage nursing graduate students.

Meanwhile, output indicators of productive research and scholarship programs include but are not limited to, extramural grant awards for research or scholarship and peer-reviewed publications of research, theory, or philosophical essays.

These should also include presentations of research, theory, or philosophical essays and scientific review activities and other grant application review groups.

Research Vs Professional Degree:

THOUGH considered a model for other nations the American graduate education, there is a growing concern in both the academic and practice arenas that PhD programs have become too focused on scholarly research to the neglect of other faculty responsibilities and non-academic careers.

This led to the Pew Foundation sponsored project which re-designed doctoral education to address the shortage of academic positions in most fields, particularly nursing.

Among the problems encountered are low program completion rates, the relevance of preparation for careers other than in academia, lack of diversity in the student body and requirements for completing the degree.

Still, doctoral nursing programs don't encounter other problems faced by the other professions like the over-production of PhDs, long periods of post-doctoral training, the shortage of academic posts for graduates and overuse of doctoral students to teach undergraduate courses.

In other continents like Europe and Australia, their model for PhD education in fields like nursing consists of a research-only program with little or no course work and an apprenticeship relationship between the student and the major advisor.

The program emphasis is on developing disciplinary knowledge and not on its application or on the role students assume upon graduation.

Education, business and a number of other professional fields identified needs for knowledge development which are more directly applicable to the problems faced in the daily practice of the profession.

Doctoral of Nursing Practice:

This nursing program is an emerging doctoral program with varying focus areas depending on the school.

These programs usually require three years of full-time study and stress clinical practice-oriented leadership development.

The objective is to prepare graduates for leadership positions in research, clinical care delivery, patient outcomes and system management.

Program graduates will develop expertise in managing the complex balance between quality of care, access, and fiscal responsibilities.

Current status:

Both PhD and DNS nursing degree programs in almost all instances are research-focused doctoral programs even with slight differences such as emphasis on empirical rather than applied research.

A 1999 AACN survey of schools of nursing offering PhD and DNS programs showed that only one nursing school in the country offered both PhD and DNS (Doctoral Nursing Science) degree programs with an internship required for the DNS program.

In other respondent schools the DNS degree was phased out as the PhD program was approved and then offered. Other schools had established DNS programs that emphasized research training.

The number of doctoral prepared nurses per school was small and they were usually employed in managerial, evaluation or educational roles with a small percentage in clinical positions.

Still some institutions were willing to employ additional doctoral prepared nurses, particularly for clinical and research positions.

Even with the addition of 52 doctoral nursing programs in the 1980s and 1990s there were only 200 more graduates in 1998 than in 1989, with most of the growth noted before 1992.

In 1998 the average number of graduations from 70 existing doctoral programs was less than six per program, indicating a slow growth rate in doctoral nursing graduates.

Doctor of Nursing Science

Graduates of DNSc program are trained to develop investigative/research skills as well as clinical and leadership skills essential to shaping the health care system.

These programs focus on health outcomes measurement, health care economics, statistical analysis and informatics and the prospective graduates are required to prepare a clinical defense and dissertation.

Doctor of Philosophy Programs:

These PhD programs train nurse scholars and researchers for development of nursing science through scholarly research meant to enhance the theoretical foundation of nursing practice and health care delivery.

Graduates would be qualified to engage in the conduct of scholarly inquiry, leadership in health care delivery systems and public policy formation.

Masters in science nursing (MSN)/PhD Dual Degree

This is intended for nurses qualified and interested in an intensive, accelerated program simultaneously offering master's preparation and advanced research training at the doctoral level.

Usually taking five years to complete some schools offer programs for students entering with a non-nursing bachelor's degree.

Some schools offering baccalaureate/doctoral nursing programs are:

  • University of Alabama at Birmingham Columbia University
  • Binghamton University
  • University of Arizona University at Buffalo
  • Arkansas University of Rochester
  • University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences North Carolina
  • The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • University of California San Francisco North Dakota
  • Colorado University of North Dakota
  • University of Colorado Health Sciences Center Ohio
  • University of Northern Colorado Case Western Reserve
  • University of Connecticut
  • The Ohio State University
  • University of Connecticut University of Cincinnati
  • District of Columbia Pennsylvania
  • The Catholic University of America
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Florida University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Florida University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Miami Widener University
  • University of South Florida South Carolina
  • Georgia Medical University of South Carolina
  • Medical College of Georgia University of South Carolina
  • Loyola University Chicago University of Tennessee-Knoxville
  • Rush University Medical Center University of Tennessee
  • Health Science Center
  • University of Illinois at Chicago Texas
  • Indiana University of Texas-Austin
  • Indiana University School of Nursing Utah
  • Iowa University of Utah
  • University of Iowa Virginia
  • Kansas University of Virginia
  • University of Kansas Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Kentucky Washington
  • University of Louisville University of Washington
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Massachusetts Boston College
  • Michigan State University
  • University of Michigan
  • Wayne State University
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Missouri-Columbia
  • University of Missouri-St. Louis
  • University of Nebraska Medical Center