Concerns of Doctoral Education in Nursing in the US

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 3
Words: 588
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College


Postgraduate education is aimed at enhancing one’s knowledge skills, and it is frequently a means of gaining better professional results. Nurses, as well as specialists working in many other spheres, have an opportunity to enter doctoral programs through which they can obtain greater expertise. The present paper will analyze the past, present, and future of doctoral education in nursing, with an emphasis on the importance of a Ph.D. degree and its benefits for patients.

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Doctoral Education in Nursing

The present of nursing doctoral education in the US is inevitably affected by its past. Ph.D. programs in nursing started to become popular in the 1970s (Bednash, Breslin, Kirschling, & Rosseter, 2014). In 2004, the rapid development of nurses’ interest in postgraduate education began (Ketefian & Redman, 2015). As a result, the need for more nursing scientists emerged, requiring changes in professional preparation.

In particular, according to Ketefian and Redman (2015), nurses became expected to start their research training at earlier stages of their careers. Ironside (2015) notes that the past fifteen years of nursing education were influenced by alterations in approaches to research work in nursing education. Having analyzed Ph.D. programs in nursing over 2012, Wyman and Henly (2015) concluded that the majority of them were focused on research design, theory, and statistics courses. Meanwhile, only some programs were aimed at developing nurses’ skills in genetics, genomics, biophysical measurement, and informatics.

Thus, nursing doctoral education required serious transformations, and specialists made efforts to reach them. At present, nursing students can choose between two types of doctoral programs: a Ph.D. degree and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Ph.D. is the highest form of nurses’ educational preparation for those who want to pursue a research career (Bednash, Breslin, Kirschling, & Rosseter, 2014). Research is needed in a variety of professional areas, such as promoting health policies, developing evidence-based practice, and addressing diverse patients’ healthcare needs (Bednash et al., 2014).

The DNP degree is needed for those searching for the highest practice preparation level. Increasing the interest of nursing students in both of these directions testifies the growing need for innovative approaches to the theory and practice of nursing.

Taking into consideration the current level of nursing doctoral education, it seems viable to assume that the future of this field will be even more productive. Henly et al. (2015) remark that emerging areas of nursing necessitate the inclusion of more fields in Ph.D. programs. At the same time, specialists note that it will be crucial to enhance some areas, such as arranging a supportive academic atmosphere for students’ learning and controlling the faculty’s mentorship of nurses’ research (Kim, Park, Park, Khan, & Ketefian, 2014).

The Ph.D. level not only helps to increase the quality of health care but also allows nurses to promote laws that can benefit their patients. Smeltzer et al. (2014; 2015) note that patients’ access to health services will be enhanced if more nurses complete postgraduate education. During the research, nursing scientists can find a cure to diseases or come up with methods of eliminating health care costs, which can lead to promoting changing laws.

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Doctoral education is gaining more and more attention from nursing practitioners. Those specialists who want to improve their professional outlook and find better treatment methods for their patients’ health problems have two alternatives for receiving postgraduate education. Whatever one selects, it is likely that the system of U.S. health care will benefit from a growing interest in such programs. The future of nursing cannot be viewed as separated from postgraduate education.


Bednash, G., Breslin, E. T., Kirschling, J. M., & Rosseter, R. J. (2014). PhD or DNP: Planning for doctoral nursing education. Nursing Science Quarterly, 27(4), 296-301.

Henly, S. J., McCarthy, D. O., Wyman, J. F., Stone, P. W. Redeker, N. S., McCarthy, N. M., … Conley, Y. P. (2015). Integrating emerging areas of nursing science into PhD programs. Nursing Outlook, 63(4), 408-416.

Ironside, P. M. (2015). Narrative pedagogy: Transforming nursing education through 15 years of research in nursing education. Nursing Education Perspectives, 36(2), 83-88.

Ketefian, S., & Redman, R. W. (2015). A critical examination of developments in nursing doctoral education in the United States. Revista Latino-Americana de Enfermagem, 23(3), 363-371.

Kim, M. J., Park, C. G., Park, S. H., Khan, S., & Ketefian, S. (2014). Quality of nursing doctoral education and scholarly performance in U.S. schools of nursing: Strategic areas for improvement. Journal of Professional Nursing, 30(1), 10-18.

Smeltzer, S. C., Sharts-Hopko, N. C., Cantrell, M. A., Heverly, M. N., Wise, N. J., Jenkinson, A., & Nthenge, S. (2014). Challenges to research productivity of doctoral program nursing faculty. Nursing Outlook, 62(4), 268-274.

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Smeltzer, S. C., Sharts-Hopko, N. C., Cantrell, M. A., Heverly, M. N., Nthenge, S, & Jenkinson, A. (2015). A profile of U.S. nursing faculty in research- and practice-focused doctoral education. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 47(2), 178-185.

Wyman, J. F., & Henly, S. J. (2015). PhD programs in nursing in the United States: Visibility of American Association of Colleges of Nursing core curricular elements and emerging areas of science. Nursing Outlook, 63(4), 390-397.