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Wanted: Nurse PhDs

 |  By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   July 22, 2014

The co-director of a nursing scholars program says doctoral degrees can help nurses become visionary thinkers, researchers, policy makers, and leaders.

Julie Fairman, RN, PhD, FAAN

Of the nation's 3 million nurses, only about 1% of them hold doctoral degrees in nursing or a related field, but a new program from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation aims to boost that number.

"We certainly hope to cause a bump in the trend," says Julie Fairman, RN, PhD, FAAN, Nightingale Professor in Nursing and Director of the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Fairman is also co-director of the Future of Nursing Scholars program, which earlier this month selected the 14 schools of nursing that will receive grants to support 17 nurses as they pursue their PhDs. These inaugural grantees will select students to receive financial support, mentoring, and leadership development over the three years of their PhD programs.

The IOM's Future of Nursing report is often cited for its call for 80% of nurses to hold a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing by 2020. But the report also calls on the field to double its number of nurses with doctorates by 2020.

Faculty Needed
One barrier to doctoral-prepared nurses is the dearth of faculty at nursing schools. Fairman tells me that already, nursing schools are turning away applicants because of a shallow faculty pool. Plus, she says that the average age of nurse faculty is 60 years old.


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Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

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