By Jasmine Howard
If you feel called to a career in nursing practice, you may, like many nurses, feel that you’re done with school after earning an ADN or BSN. But there’s so much more to the nursing profession, and so much further you can go beyond the undergraduate level. Many registered nurses decide, at some point in their careers, that they’d like to go further, and pursue advanced nursing education.
A Ph.D. in Nursing is a research-focused doctoral degree that is one of the highest degrees you can earn in the profession. This degree primarily prepares nurses for a career in nursing education or nurse research, but it can also be useful preparation for administrative roles or private practice.
A few nurses decide to finish an advanced degree early in their careers, perhaps even before they join the work force, but the vast majority go back to school online to earn advanced credentials on their own schedule. A PH.D. in Nursing can make you a respected authority, and help you make a real difference in the field of nursing, now and in the future.
1. You’ll Be an Acknowledged Expert in the Field
Nursing takes a different approach to medicine than that taken by physicians and other doctorate educated practitioners, but popular wisdom still holds that people who go to nursing school do it because they’re not interested in medical school. When you earn a doctorate degree in nursing, you’ll be able to hold your own among other doctorate-educated medical professionals. You’ll be as valued on any care team as any other medical professional with a doctorate-level education.
2. You’ll Have the Chance to Influence Health Care Policy and Practice
If you’ve already got a few years of experience in nursing or even just been through nursing school, you’ve probably wondered who made up all the rules, procedures, and nursing diagnoses you’re taught to follow. You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that it was Ph.D.-educated nurse researchers.
Nurse researchers are responsible for obtaining the scientific data necessary to improve care practices in hospitals around the country; for example, it was nurse researchers who discovered that a 10 percent increase in BSN-educated nursing staff leads to a five percent drop in patient mortality after surgery, influencing national hospital hiring policies for nurses. Nurse researchers are called upon to advise lawmakers about potential policy changes, and they’re responsible for advancing the field of nursing as a whole.
3. You Could Help Relieve the Nurse Educator Shortage
You probably already knew that there’s a shortage of qualified nursing practitioners, but did you realize why? It’s because there’s a dwindling supply of nurse educators qualified to teach them. According to InsideHigherEd.com, nursing schools around the country are struggling to recruit and keep enough qualified nursing staff to maintain their accreditations.
Nursing programs had to turn away more than 75,500 qualified nursing school applicants in 2011 alone, for lack of faculty to teach them. With a Ph.D., you could provide a path into the nursing profession for hundreds of students who otherwise wouldn’t even have a chance to learn.
4. You Could Take on an Administrative Role
Although the Ph.D. is a research-focused role, it’s still great preparation for administrative roles. If you want to work as a nurse director or other supervisory position, a Ph.D. could be the degree for you. The degree imparts the management and leadership skills nurse administrators need, and the health care community is increasingly recognizing the value of the nursing perspective at all levels of an organization.
5. You Could Open Your Own Practice
Nurse practitioners can now open their own, independent practices in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Though the Ph.D. in Nursing is a research-focused degree, it can still prepare a nurse for advanced practice; at the moment, an MSN is sufficient preparation for advanced nursing practice. The administrative and management skills you’ll learn while doing this degree will come in handy when running your own practice.
If you want to go to climb all the way to the top of the career ladder as a nurse, a Ph.D. in Nursing can take you there. This doctorate degree is one of the most advanced you can get as a nurse, alongside the Doctor of Nursing Practice and the Doctor of Education in Nursing. Whether you’re aiming for prestigious research opportunities, a teaching position, or a practice of your very own, consider earning a Ph.D. in Nursing.