History of Doctorate Degrees in Nursing

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 9
Words: 2212
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Study level: College


Doctorate programs have been offered in colleges for centuries. However, Bennett (2006) asserts that it was not until the 20th century that the education about doctorate degrees in nursing began in the USA. Nursing doctoral programs in America started during the 20th century as a sub-faculty of other fields. Bennett (2006) suggests that possibly the delay was because of nursing’s exceptional practice and history. Nursing education started outside the mainstream of universities and was situated entirely in hospitals (Bastable, 2014). As such, these hospitals that were later converted into colleges were overseen by patriarchal administrative systems. The systems are responsible for the delay in the adoption of doctorate degrees in nursing. The systems mandated credentials for professional leadership. The adoption of the program took ages. Partin (2005) asserts that presently nursing is far from having an amalgamated method for doctoral training.

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The start and the rationale behind the conception of the program

Brodie (1986) states that in America doctorate degrees in nursing programs evolved for decades. The programs started owing to the shortage of nurses in administrative and research positions (American Psychological Association, 2011). Therefore, by enrolling in the above courses nurses could not only be able to gain knowledge in advanced nursing but also in management and research studies. Brodie (1986) believes that the first research-centered doctoral courses focused on several science fields. As such, the programs were not aimed at recruiting nurses. Nurses were only admitted into the programs if they had the essential requisites. One major problem experienced during the first stage was few nurses possessed undergraduate degrees. At the time, fundamental nursing programs were clinic-founded and did not award degrees.

According to Valerius (1997), the above transformation in the locus of nursing education necessitated the need for doctoral education in nursing. The transformation led to spiteful deliberations among faculty at a number of schools of nursing. The deliberations were focused on the need for doctoral education. During the discussions, experts usually questioned if the program of education would be centered on the field of nursing or a science-linked field. Others questioned if the degree was to be under education faculty considered that a number of the graduates from the program were going to be educators. Similarly, it was also questioned whether master’s degree was not adequate predominantly when the emphasis of the degree was clinical nursing.

The program’s pioneers and focus of the degree

Meleis (1988) points out that the pioneers of doctoral programs focused on nursing were Columbia University and New York University. The programs were rolled out between the years 1920s and 1930s. The programs were under education departments and were custom-made to formulate nursing programs. The programs conferred the PhD or EdD. However, they offered miniature, if any, projects in nursing.

Williams (1988) states that between the years 1940 and 1950 nurses’ baccalaureate programs were initiated at various higher education institutions. With the initiation of the programs, major inquiries with respect to the qualifications of the faculty arose. Notably, faculty credentials were a negligible concern when the programs were situated in a hospital. However, it became an issue when they were situated at the universities because they upheld stern principles for faculty. Another problem was that few individuals possessed baccalaureate degrees in nursing. Equally, fewer individuals had master’s degrees in nursing. Nearly no one possessed a doctoral degree, which was a prerequisite for university faculty positions.

A number of nursing schools began their doctoral programs between the years 1950 and 1960. Yam (2005) suggests that although the program in a number of teachers’ colleges focused on nursing training and nursing management, the program at New York University reprogrammed its prospectus to focus on the field as the discipline of unitary humans. Boston University became the first university to come up with a program meant at addressing the medical practice of nursing during the 1960s. Similarly, the university came up with a doctor of nursing science degree during the same period. Other universities that followed suit and established the same faculties were the University of California and the Catholic University of America. The University of Pittsburgh came up with a PhD in medical nursing about this similar time. Soon after, The University of Alabama also came up with a, DNS, doctor of science in nursing degree. The degree was framed in the same way as the DNSc.

How the program played out

Yam (2005) points out that a severe problem endured because a number of stakeholders resolved that nursing science was not mature enough to validate the PhD programs. Unquestionably, no degree of scientific maturity was backed. Possibly, the challenge arose for the reason that a number of doctorate nurses at the time possessed degrees in other science disciplines. The disciplines were perceived to be mature because they had existing doctorate faculties. The above nurses had not expended their doctoral education in nursing for the reason that such doctoral education was not extensively accessible. In addition, Yam (2005) states that several writing of the time exhibited a relatively romantic and constricted interpretation of what instituted science. Nursing research editions recommended that science was rational and methodical. In practice, the above is rarely true. Others advocated for nursing training to be a major in science, despite that a small number of scientists would claim that the practice is derivative of science.

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According to Bunkers (2002), resources from the central government-aided several nurses to gain doctoral degrees. The above may have added to the enduring argument over whether the doctoral degree ought to be in nursing or a dissimilar field. In the year 1955, the American Public Health Service commenced aiding doctoral education. Their help was realized through the Federal Pre-doctoral Research Fellowship Program. Money was given to the doctoral students. Through this, a number of ambitious faculty associates managed to fund their training through this approach. Amid the years 1955 and 1970, up to 155 nurses were sustained by the Division of Nursing fellowships. Nearly not a single person of them was in nursing. At the end of the 1950s, the Division of Nursing correspondingly backed the Faculty Research Development Grants Program. The aim of these endowments was to enhance the investigation competencies of faculty in graduate nursing courses by offering seed money. Eighteen institutes won these scholarships amid the years 1959 and 1968. Out of the more than 10 programs, only three presented doctoral programs in nursing throughout the scholarship-funding era.

In an alternative effort to encourage more nurses to pursue doctoral degrees, the Division of Nursing started to sponsor more nursing graduate training scholarships (Bunkers, 2002). The intention of this initiative was to come up with a squad of nurses with doctoral degrees at colleges and to enhance the nursing doctoral faculties. More money was also aimed at aiding more nurses to obtain doctoral degrees in other faculties, which were closely related to clinical medicine. The faculties are comprised of social sciences, psychology, anthropology, ecology, and physiology. The nurses who focused on the above fields were expected to minor in nursing. Nine colleges on behalf of thirty-four diverse departments received the scholarships. Out of the nine universities, four universities offered doctoral courses focusing on nursing at the period.

Bunkers (2002) suggest that by the start of 1970s, numerous fresh doctoral courses in nursing appeared. Most of the courses were offered by the seasoned and more recognized schools of nursing. Progress persisted through the 1980s and 1990s. During the period, a number of fresh programs emerged annually. The leap of the fresh program growth was habitually quicker than the accessible faculty would have foreseen would be the case. By the year 1970, there were up to twenty programs. However, by the year 2000, there were up to seventy-eight programs. A number of the researches undertaken in these schools were the responsibilities of the student. Aid for nursing investigation in these schools was sporadic. The renowned degree offered was the PhD. However, a number of schools availed the DNSc, or the DSN programs. Doctoral training in nursing became extensively accessible all over America at the time. Fresh methods to the provision of the syllabus were availed as well. Particular schools started to offer summer training choices. Through the programs, courses were arranged in the summer months. Some schools began to offer weekend courses. Others adopted Web-based distance education courses. Fascinatingly, the quick growth in the number of programs and the expansion of innovative means to convey the syllabus did little to enhance the number of graduates annually. The speedy progress and ingenuity in syllabus delivery were partially accountable for the expansion of fresh standards for doctoral courses.

Towards the end of the 1970s, Western Reserve University started a fresh method of doctoral training in nursing. Initially considered as a first specialized degree, the doctor of nursing, ND, was started for university graduates. The course equipped them to be nurses at a rank analogous to other health specialized doctoral courses like medicine, and veterinary medicine. The formation of this clinical course in the period that doctorate-nursing education was receiving criticism was not acknowledged with the worldwide agreement. Of some worry was by what method the course would be dissimilar from the DNSc. To date, there has been the supposition that the PhD was to emphasize academic investigation and the DNSc was to be the practice-centered. However, studies indicate that DNSc can be differentiated from the PhD based on the recruitment criteria, syllabus, or dissertation topics.

Garrett (1990) illustrates that later the American Association of Colleges of Nursing came up with several quality pointers for research-centered doctoral courses in nursing. The pointers were adopted as the basis for the assessment of these programs. Notably, the speedy increase of courses did not generate an associated rise in the number of graduates. The fresh programs produced a small number of graduates in a year. Similarly, the time required to complete the programs increase as more students opted to study during their part-time. A study conducted in the year 1988 indicated that there were only 201 more graduates during the late 1990s than they were during the late 1980s. Based on this, it was established that research-centered doctoral programs were not going to satisfy the needs of nursing faculty with the base at which they were progressing. Similarly, it was noted that the average age of doctorate age of nursing students during their graduation was 45 years.

The program’s current viability

The prospect of research-centered doctoral programs in nursing will experience similar challenges as it has done in the recent past. Partin (2005) suggests that to date no apparatuses are in place to regulate the number of programs that should exist or to impose superiority standards at these programs. Equally, the demand for nursing faculty is expected to be very vital in the future. Therefore, more programs are expected to be developed in the future. Nursing has not been disposed to the prerequisite observed in other fields that the faculty ought to be involved in supporting study after rolling out a research degree. In this respect, a number of schools offering the nursing PhD ought not to be measured as research-centered schools.

Valerius (1997) asserts that the choice of a university to roll out PhD as opposed to the DNSc has frequently been a key political decision. The PhD is usually administered by the guidelines of the university together with the nursing school. Based on this, it is apparent that approval is expected to be trickier even into the future. Particular schools like the University of California and the University of Pennsylvania initiated their doctoral courses DNSc and after some time transformed them into PhD schools. On the other hand, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Johns Hopkins University commenced offering PhD courses and later on introduced DNSc courses. Based on this, PhD unlike DNSc will probably continue to be the favored degree in the future.

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Major changes that led to the inception of the new program

As illustrated above, it is apparent that major changes led to the inception of the new program. The changes can be categorized into four stages. The first stage occurred between the years 1900 and 1940. During this stage, the doctor of education (EdD) was offered. The second stage was experienced between the years 1940 and 1960. During the period, the doctoral degrees in basic and social science faculties were facilitated. Notably, the degrees had no nursing content. The third stage was experienced between the years 1960 and 1970. During the era, a basic and social science doctoral degree was initiated. The degree had minor nursing content. The fourth stage was experienced after the 1970s. The period witnessed the speedy rise of the DNSc and nursing PhD education platforms. As such, the period marked the inception of the new program into contemporary nursing studies.


In conclusion, it should be noted that it was not until the 20th century that the education about doctorate degrees in nursing began in the USA. Nursing doctoral programs in America started during the 20th century as a sub-faculty of other fields. Nursing education started outside the mainstream of universities and was situated entirely in hospitals. The adoption of the program was undertaken for several years. Currently, nursing is far from having an amalgamated method for doctoral training.


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Bastable, S. (2014). Nurse as educator: Principles of teaching and learning for nursing practice (4rd ed.). Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett.

Bennett, C. (2006). Doctoral Education in Nursing – International Perspectives. Nursing Standard, 20(44), 37-37.

Brodie, B. (1986). Impact of doctoral programs on nursing education. Journal Of Professional Nursing, 2(6), 350-357.

Bunkers, S. (2002). Doctoral Education in Nursing: Seeking Clarity. Nursing Science Quarterly, 15(3), 201-208.

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Partin, B. (2005). The Doctorate of Nursing Practice: A Natural Evolution. The Nurse Practitioner, 30(11), 23.

Valerius, A. (1997). In Favor of the Nursing Doctorate (ND). Image: The Journal Of Nursing Scholarship, 29(4), 308-308.

Williams, C. (1988). Career development of the nurse-scientist: The new doctorate faces a postdoctoral. Journal Of Professional Nursing, 4(2), 73-75

Yam, B. (2005). Professional doctorate and professional nursing practice. Nurse Education Today, 25(7), 564-572.