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What do you do with a PhD in nursing? - Postgraduates - Nurses Arena Forum

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What do you do with a PhD in nursing? by Idowu Olabode : September 24, 2015, 09:17:01 PM
By Tiffany Montgomery

Almost weekly, I am asked about my choice to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in nursing. The frequency of this makes me wonder if the general public only sees nurses as bedside handmaidens who take orders from physicians. The more frustrating thing is when these probing questions come from other PhD students.

I was shocked the first time I was asked by a non-nursing
PhD student, “What do you do with a PhD in nursing?” I’ve
now grown used to hearing this question from my doctoral
colleagues outside the school of nursing. Still, it’s quite
bothersome, because the question usually isn’t framed as
an inquiry about what area of research I’m interested in or
what type of employment I plan to seek upon graduation.

It’s more, “Why in the world would a nurse want a PhD?”

Before I became accustomed to the question, I wasn’t sure
how to answer it. Often times, it was difficult to decipher
whether or not the person asking was trying to be sarcastic
(especially if the question came from another PhD student).

At one point, I became irritated by the question and started
giving a pretty snappy reply: “The same thing you do with a
PhD in anything else!”

After completing a year of doctoral studies, however, I now
realize that the general public is unaware of all the wonderful avenues available to nurses. So, now I view the
question as an opportunity to educate.

What do you do with a PhD in nursing? Whatever you want!

There are PhD-prepared nurses who teach,conduct research, evaluate programs, write books, lead health care organizations and work for the government. With a doctoral degree, the sky is the limit.

One thing I doubt most nurse PhDs want to do is work full time in direct patient care. At the doctoral level, nursing is less about hands-on patient care and more about the abstract thinking that helps move the profession forward.

More than anything else, a nurse with a PhD has the training needed to conduct research and add to the body of available nursing research knowledge.

While not all PhD-prepared nurses choose to work as researchers, all have been exposed to great amounts of research and have had to demonstrate their ability to conduct high-quality research on their own.

Three jobs I’ve noticed that most PhD-prepared nurses
consider are listed below. The job descriptions provided are
based on my observations of nurses employed in these
positions, and they may vary from facility to facility:

Nursing faculty member —A nurse educator who works in an
AS, BSN, MSN or PhD program as a classroom instructor.
Nurse faculty members are also responsible for creating,
implementing and evaluating program curricula and
mentoring nursing students. Oftentimes, in addition to their
teaching responsibilities, they are expected to conduct
research. They typically disseminate this research in
scholarly journals and at research conferences.

Director of nursing research —a nurse researcher who
serves as administrator of the nursing research department
of a health care facility or coordinator of the facility’s nursing research program. The director may supervise other
nursing research employees, or he or she may be
responsible for overseeing all nursing research projects
conducted within the facility. The director of nursing
research is typically the go-to person within the facility for
questions regarding the design and implementation of a
desired research study. He or she may or may not be
responsible for dissemination of research findings.

Director of clinical services—a clinical administrator who
oversees daily operations of patient care departments in a
health care facility. He or she is the liaison between upper
management and department managers. Although the
director is not involved in direct patient care, he or she is
aware of the work flows in each department that promote
optimal patient care. The director may generate or receive
reports addressing the efficiency of departmental work
flows, and this information is then given to each department
manager in an effort to increase efficiency and patient

Other jobs available to PhD-prepared nurses include
research or high-ranking administrative positions in
pharmaceutical companies, research institutes, health
advocacy organizations, health care information technology
corporations and nursing or other health-related publishing
companies. A nurse who has attained a PhD can practically
work anywhere that research, education, or program
evaluation takes place. The important thing to remember is
that graduation from a reputable PhD program ensures that
a nurse has received proper research training.

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