Journal of Nursing Education

Major Article 

Early Entry to a Doctoral Degree in Nursing Program: Analysis of Student Experiences

Nadine Nehls, PhD, RN; Elizabeth Rice, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC

Abstract

Educational innovations that encourage younger students to pursue doctoral research training are timely and important. To this end, an evaluation of an early-entry doctoral (PhD) program in nursing was conducted. One component of this evaluation examines qualitative data from students admitted to the PhD program as undergraduates or immediately upon graduation from the undergraduate program. The evaluation included all students (N = 29) admitted over a 10-year period, from 2002 to 2011. Eighty-three percent of this population agreed to participate. Transcriptions of individual interviews were analyzed using a qualitative descriptive method. The results are categorized into three general areas: decision making about becoming a nurse and a PhD student, facilitators of admission to and progression in an early-entry PhD program, and the challenges of being an early-entry PhD student. The findings provide the data necessary to guide revisions of existing programs and stimulate the development of new early-entry PhD programs. [J Nurs Educ. 2014;53(4):223–228.]

Dr. Nehls is Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Programs, and Dr. Rice is Clinical Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing, Madison, Wisconsin.

Support for this project was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Evaluating Innovations in Nursing (EIN) grant 70183.

The authors have disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Nadine Nehls, PhD, RN, Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Programs, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing, 600 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53792-2455; e-mail: nmnehls@wisc.edu.

Received: November 26, 2013
Accepted: January 23, 2014
Posted Online: March 27, 2014

Abstract

Educational innovations that encourage younger students to pursue doctoral research training are timely and important. To this end, an evaluation of an early-entry doctoral (PhD) program in nursing was conducted. One component of this evaluation examines qualitative data from students admitted to the PhD program as undergraduates or immediately upon graduation from the undergraduate program. The evaluation included all students (N = 29) admitted over a 10-year period, from 2002 to 2011. Eighty-three percent of this population agreed to participate. Transcriptions of individual interviews were analyzed using a qualitative descriptive method. The results are categorized into three general areas: decision making about becoming a nurse and a PhD student, facilitators of admission to and progression in an early-entry PhD program, and the challenges of being an early-entry PhD student. The findings provide the data necessary to guide revisions of existing programs and stimulate the development of new early-entry PhD programs. [J Nurs Educ. 2014;53(4):223–228.]

Dr. Nehls is Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Programs, and Dr. Rice is Clinical Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing, Madison, Wisconsin.

Support for this project was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Evaluating Innovations in Nursing (EIN) grant 70183.

The authors have disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Nadine Nehls, PhD, RN, Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Programs, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing, 600 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53792-2455; e-mail: nmnehls@wisc.edu.

Received: November 26, 2013
Accepted: January 23, 2014
Posted Online: March 27, 2014

The number of nurses with research-intensive doctoral degrees is concerning. The most recent survey estimates that less than 1% of nurses have completed a doctoral degree in nursing or a related field (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). Despite the fact that the number of doctoral (Doctor of Philosophy [PhD]) programs in nursing are increasing (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2012a) and that the number of students enrolling in these programs has been steadily increasing (Fang, Li, & Bednash, 2012), the number of new gradua