Nursing Education and Curriculum Model for Doctoral Programs; PhD and  Doctor of Education

Development of Doctoral Programs in Nursing Education and Curriculum Model, PhD in Nursing Degree Curriculum Model In Nursing Education, Doctor of Education (EdD) Curriculum In Nursing Education.

Development of Doctoral Programs in Nursing Education and Curriculum Model 

  Doctoral education for nurses has existed since the 1920s. Originally, doctoral programs prepared nurses for administrative and teaching roles. The first doctoral program for nurses was offered in 1924 at Teachers College, Columbia University; graduates earned an EdD degree (Peplau, 1966). 

    In the 1950s and 1960s, most nurses who wanted doctoral degrees obtained the degree in disciplines other than nursing, such as education, sociology, and psychology. Although master’s programs were growing in the 1970s, nurse leaders were advancing the idea that nursing needed its own theory base to be recognized as a discipline and a profession that could stand alone rather than borrow theory from other disciplines. 

    Doctoral programs in nursing initially developed to stimulate the development of nursing theory and research as well as prepare nurses to teach; development of these programs surged in the later part of the twentieth century (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2012a; Keating, 2011c; Stotts, 2011). 

    These programs resulted in a PhD with a focus in nursing. Today there are currently 131 research-focused doctoral programs (PhD, DNS, EdD) in the United States (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2014a). As recognition developed that more emphasis was needed for clinical application, the clinical doctorate emerged. 

    The first nursing clinical doctoral program designed to focus on clinical practice opened at Boston University in the 1960s (Carter, 2013). These programs offered a variety of degree titles, such as doctorate of nurse scientist (DNSc). Eventually, it was recognized that these programs were comparable to the PhD but focused on clinical practice improvement rather than research that developed nursing theory. 

    In the 1970s some nurse leaders advocated for the nurse doctorate (ND), which prepared individuals for basic licensure plus application of advanced knowledge in clinical practice areas. The first ND degree was offered at Case Western Reserve University and then was phased out as the DNP degree developed (Carter, 2013).

    The idea of the DNP degree was strengthened in response to a recommendation from the National Research Council (2005) that clinical doctorates be offered to prepare faculty to teach. The AACN followed by recommending that a practice-focused doctorate be developed to educate advanced practice nurses and that all APRNs obtain a DNP to enter into advanced practice. 

    The DNP degree focuses on advanced preparation in scientific foundations of nursing practice, leadership, evidence-based practice, health care technologies, health care policies, inter professional collaboration, clinical prevention and population based care, and advanced practice in a specialty area (Keating, 2011a). 

    In 2004 the AACN recommended that bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) to DNP programs be developed to shift preparation of the advanced practice nurse from the master’s level to the doctoral level. 

  This recommendation and its implementation would increase the number of doctorly prepared nurses, educate nurses to translate research into practice, and improve practice through the application of evidence (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2010a).

    The development of DNP programs proliferated early in the twenty-first century, and some nurse leaders began voicing concerns that fewer nurses would enter PhD programs, master’s preparation for NPs would be eliminated, and APRNs would not be focused on providing care to people, especially individuals and families living in areas with limited access to health care providers. 

    This belief centered on the understanding that DNP graduates would be focused on leading improvements in health systems rather than providing direct care to populations (Cronenwett et al., 2011). The controversy surrounding the issue of DNP degrees as the entry into advanced nursing practice has economic, societal, and health care delivery implications. 

    The DNP degree is regarded as the highest level of advanced nursing practice that focuses on translating new knowledge into practice and developing evidence based practice; more than 250 schools currently offer the DNP degree (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2014c).

    With AACN’s mandate for the DNP degree to be the entry into advanced practice, questions are raised as to how to prepare a nurse for advanced practice while at the same time developing skills in leadership and systems change (Fontaine & Langston, 2011; Malone, 2011). 

   Some leaders argue that engaging young nurses to advance to the DNP degree immediately after completing their BSN degree limits the contributions they can make to the profession, whereas others see an economic benefit for the student as well as a means of improving health care delivery (Potempa, 2011).

PhD in Nursing Degree Curriculum Model In Nursing Education

    The PhD in nursing degree is designed to prepare nurse scientists who are committed to the generation of new knowledge and can steward the discipline and educate the next generation (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2010a). 

    PhD programs focus on developing researchers who design and implement studies that advance evidence based practice and inform health policy (Bednash, Breslin, Kirschling, & Rosseter, 2014). 

    These programs mentor students by involving them in a community designed to stimulate students’ thinking about their own research agenda and by providing opportunities to prepare grants and manuscripts and initiate a program of research.

    PhD programs are designed to accommodate both part-time and full-time students. Delivery of the programs varies from traditional on-campus courses to completely online courses, with most programs using a blended approach to deliver the program. 

    The PhD program prepares a beginning nurse scientist. Postdoctoral programs are the next step for nurses who want to continue to develop as a nurse scientist. Postdoctoral programs, often funded by federal grants, give students an opportunity to mature into independent researchers by providing a strong mentoring experience. 

    Postdoctoral programs are not growing at this time, and thus opportunities are limited for students to extend their preparation as nurse scientists before entering the workforce (Bednash et al., 2014).

    The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degree The DNP program is designed for those nurses involved in direct practice and those working in areas that support clinical practice, such as administration (Bednash et al., 2014). 

    These programs prepare nurses as advanced practice nurses who are ready to assume leadership roles in clinical organizations, develop and influence health care policy, implement knowledge generated by nurse scientists, advance evidence based practice, and improve the health care delivery system (Udlis & Mancuso, 2012). 

    The DNP degree is considered a terminal degree in nursing practice. While not intended to prepare nurses for positions as educators, the DNP degree does provide a terminal degree credential that many institutions accept as qualification for a faculty position and can be instrumental in addressing the profession’s shortage of nursing faculty. 

    If DNP graduates are prepared as nurse faculty in addition to advanced practice nurses, these graduates would be well positioned to educate all levels of students and to close the practice-education gap (Danzey et al., 2011).

Doctor of Education (EdD) Curriculum In Nursing Education

    Degree Early in the twentieth century, nurses who wanted to teach selected doctoral programs in schools of education. Schools of education offered PhD and EdD programs (“the practice doctorate” in education). 

    As nursing doctoral programs developed, nurses had more choices about the type of doctoral program they wanted and some chose PhD or DNS programs in schools of nursing while others chose to obtain their degree from schools of education in order to work in schools of nursing and improve programs preparing students to practice nursing. 

    Nurses who want a focus on education still select an EdD program today. Recently, because of the emphasis on preparing nurse educators at the doctoral level, several schools of nursing are offering an EdD in nursing. These programs may collaborate with the school of education on the campus who can offer foundational courses and major areas of concentration in education. 

    For example, one college of nursing has developed a collaborative doctoral program to prepare nurse scholar teachers; the program results in an EdD degree in instructional leadership and was developed collaboratively by faculty from the college of education and the college of nursing (Graves et al., 2013). This is an innovative way to educate nurses at the doctoral level to become scholars and educators committed to advancing the science of nursing education.


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