Nurses with research doctorates are vital in improving patient outcomes and quality of care. However, less than 5 percent of nurses have PhDs, the education needed to perform independent research according to the National Institute of Nursing Research. The aging and retirement of current nurse researchers indicates a coming shortage of nurse scientists that could impact future nurse research contributions to healthcare delivery.

To help prevent this shortage, the Hillman Program in Nursing Innovation developed the idea for a BSN to PhD program to accelerate education opportunities for new and young nurse researchers. The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) was the first school to implement the idea, and took it a step further by developing an immersion experience in clinical nursing practice for PhD students through a partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Hillman Scholar Madelyne Z. Greene says, “Research shows that the average age of students entering nursing PhD programs is early 40s, which is far older than many other disciplines. This shortens the duration of nurse scientists’ productive careers as researchers, educators and innovative leaders. There is a compelling need for increased innovation in preparing new nurse scientists, leaders and innovators earlier in their careers.”

Scholars in Penn’s BSN to PhD program are both undergraduate and PhD students at the same time, as early as their junior undergraduate year or upon entry to the second degree accelerated BSN program. Students achieve rapid progression through the rigorous coursework by replacing specific required undergraduate courses like healthcare policy and research methods with graduate-level versions. They also enroll in PhD core courses and advanced coursework in their selected research content area during undergraduate semesters instead of taking electives.

The truly unique aspect of the program is the seven-month fellowship, which is distinct from existing residencies for new nurse graduates. It includes a high level of clinical and scholarly mentoring, shorter program length, and waiver of the usual requirement of committing to work for the sponsoring institution for a set time upon graduation.

To learn more about Penn Nursing’s BSN to PhD program and nursing fellowship, visit here.

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