Getting a Nursing Doctorate or Ph.D.: Advice for Nurses

If you want to get into a career in nursing, then getting a BSN degree is a great first step to start in this career. However, nurses don’t have to stop there. When it comes to improving your qualifications, knowledge, and experience, and moving up the career ladder as a nurse, there are so many great opportunities available, including getting a Ph.D. in nursing. Doctorate programs in nursing are a great choice for nurses who are interested in taking their career further to work in leadership and management, running their own healthcare business, higher education, and much more.

Reasons to Get a Ph.D. or Doctorate in Nursing

You may be considering earning a doctorate degree in nursing if you are thinking about moving away from a clinical practice career and getting into a role that focuses on administration, research, or education. This may be an ideal choice for a nurse who has been working in clinical practice for some time and feels that it’s time to do something different, nurses who want to make a difference to patients in non-direct ways or nurses who need more regular and sociable working hours. Wilkes University offers a Ph.D. in nursing that is designed to help nurses move away from the bedside and into non-clinical or research positions. Another option to consider is a doctorate of nursing practice, which may be a better choice for you if you would prefer a role that incorporates some clinical practice but is a step up from your previous role such as nurse management or even running your own practice as a nurse practitioner.

When to Get a Nursing Ph.D. or Doctorate

Nurses can apply to get a Ph.D. at any time during their career. However, most nurses will consider doing this after some time working in nursing and building up experience and knowledge. You will usually be required to have extensive nursing experience and an advanced nursing qualification such as a master’s degree in nursing before you will be accepted onto a Ph.D. in nursing program. While you can find programs that don’t require this, they are quite rare. Along with this, many of the career options that are available to nurses who are educated to the Ph.D. level are looking for not only qualifications but also extensive experience in nursing. You can get your Ph.D. in nursing while working as a nurse thanks to various online, flexible programs that are now available allowing you to study from home and fit it around your commitments.

What Do You Need to Get a Nursing Ph.D. or Doctorate?

To enrol in these advanced nursing programs, you will need to first check the admissions requirements. Most colleges will ask for applicants who have at least a few years of work experience as a nurse, along with an advanced nursing qualification such as an MSN, although you can find programs that will take you on with a BSN. You may also be required to have a minimum GPA to be eligible for the program along with meeting other prerequisites. In general, you will be expected to provide GRE scores, a nursing resume, letters of recommendation from credible professionals, a goal statement, and either undergraduate or graduate transcripts.

How to Study for Your Doctorate or Ph.D. in Nursing

If you have decided that this degree program is the way forward for your career, then there are several options to consider when it comes to how you will study for your degree. If you are planning to continue working full-time as a nurse or nurse practitioner while you are studying, then it might make sense to opt for an online degree program. These are often the most flexible options with classes that you can choose to attend at times that suit you best so that you can fit your degree around your other commitments. There is, of course, also the traditional option to study on-campus, or you might prefer the idea of a hybrid degree program, which combines both online and on-campus study for a flexible timetable that you can work around your needs and requirements.

What are the Benefits of Getting a Ph.D. in Nursing?

If you feel that your nursing career needs a boost, then a Ph.D. program can help you achieve this in many different ways. There are lots of benefits to getting this qualification in nursing, including:

Move Into an Administrative Role

The nursing Ph.D. program primarily focuses on research but can also be a good program to consider if you are interested in working in an administrative role that is related to the nursing profession. For example, if you are considering moving into roles such as nurse director, a Ph.D. in nursing could be the right program to help you prepare for your future career, with modules that are designed to help you develop the management and leadership skills that you will use to be successful in a role as a nurse administrator or nurse director. With the healthcare industry increasingly seeing the benefits and value of leadership from a nursing perspective, this program could be the ideal way to create more career opportunities for yourself.

Influence Policies and Healthcare Practice

During your work as a nurse, you may have had some great ideas for new policies and practice procedures but were not in a role at the time where you could have a say in these decisions. Nurse researchers are working behind the scenes to determine new policies and procedures in healthcare practice that are put into place to improve patient care and outcomes. Getting a Ph.D. in nursing might be the ideal choice for you if you want to work in a research position, gathering data to improve care practice. This program could get you into a role where the work that you do is influential in shaping healthcare, employment in the industry, best practices, and more.

Reduce the Nurse Shortage

Getting a Ph.D. in nursing could be a move that helps you make a difference in the entire healthcare industry. Right now, anybody who is working as a nurse knows that there is currently a shortage of nursing that is causing issues throughout the industry, particularly in rural areas. The shortage of nurses is happening across the world, but the US has been particularly hard-hit as there is a shortage of primary care physicians happening at the same time, which has led many nurses to qualify as nurse practitioners to step in and fill the gaps. With a Ph.D. or doctorate degree in nursing, you will be qualified to work as a nurse educator once you have the appropriate license. Currently, one of the biggest things holding the US health industry back from fixing the nursing shortage issue is that there are simply not enough nurse educators to bring the number of new nurses needed into employment. Hundreds, if not thousands of students are turned away each year because of this, so getting a qualification that allows you to start educating new nurses is one of the best things that you can do if you want to help solve this serious problem.

Run Your Own Practice

If you are entrepreneurially minded and want to start your own practice while remaining in the nursing field, then an advanced nursing degree could be the ideal way to get there. In more than twenty states in the US, qualified and licensed nurse practitioners have the ability to start and run an independent practice. A Ph.D. or doctorate degree in nursing might not be a direct route into this career, but it can certainly help you run a more successful practice, particularly if you choose a degree program that includes management and leadership skills.

What Roles Can a Ph.D. or Doctorate in Nursing Get You?

Most Ph.D. or doctorate nursing programs will require you to have obtained significant nursing experience or an advanced nursing qualification like the MSN before you can take your career to the next level. Although a Ph.D. in nursing is an ideal choice for those who want to get into research roles within the nursing and healthcare industry, it can be a useful option for working in a wider range of roles. Alternatively, a doctorate degree in nursing might be a better option for you if you want to move up the career ladder but remain in a clinical setting. Some roles that you may be able to work in once you have this degree qualification include

Nurse Researcher

If you are interested in working in a role where you can have a big impact on healthcare policy and make discoveries that will make positive changes to patient care and outcomes, then you may want to consider a role as a nurse researcher. Nurse researchers are professionals who work behind the scenes to gather information, conduct research into patient care outcomes, and more, and evaluate this data to determine if changes and improvements can be made. Ultimately, nurse researchers are the driving force behind policy changes, such as the new BSN-in-10 law in New York State that was put in place after discoveries that found more BSN-educated nurses leads to less patient complications and fatalities.

Nurse Practitioner

While an MSN along with a postgraduate course designed to prepare you for the role will be sufficient to work as a nurse practitioner, there are many reasons why you may want to consider getting a Ph.D. or doctorate degree if this is your career aspiration. You can find Ph.D. and doctorate programs designed for nurses with a focus on running your own practice that can be very useful and help you achieve more success if this is one of your main goals for this role.

Nurse Consultant

If you want to work in a role where you can give advice to healthcare providers and make improvements to the healthcare industry as a whole through educating and mentoring professionals, then you may want to consider getting into work as a nurse consultant. This is also an ideal choice for career for nurses who are interested in working on a self-employed basis and setting their own hours. If you want to run your own business while using your previous nursing experience and extensive knowledge of the industry to succeed in your venture, this can be the best way to do it, as nurse consultants are always needed to help healthcare providers and healthcare companies make improvements.

Nurse Management and Leadership

Whether you get a doctorate or Ph.D. in nursing, these programs are designed to make sure that you are best prepared for a role in nurse leadership or management. Nurses that are educated to this level are being hired to work in management, leadership, and even director roles more often as a nurse’s holistic perspective is highly sought-after in healthcare today. Nurses often make excellent leaders as along with the leadership skills that you can develop when you get an advanced degree, you also have a level of empathy and understanding for the patients through working as a nurse that other management professionals may not have.

Nurse Educator

One of the most high-demand roles that you can get into once you have a doctorate or Ph.D. in nursing is a nurse educator. You can also work as a nurse educator with an MSN, although you may be limited when it comes to what levels you can teach. Since a Ph.D. or doctorate degree is the highest level of degree education that you can achieve as a nurse, you will be qualified to teach student nurses at all levels once you have a license to do this. With the nursing shortage that the US is currently suffering from being in part caused by a shortage of nurse educators, finding work in this role should not be difficult for those with the right qualifications and experience. As a nurse educator, you could be responsible for helping hundreds of new nurses get into their chosen careers each year.

If you are looking for a change in your nursing career, getting a Ph.D. or doctorate degree in nursing can have many benefits and provide various new role opportunities.