For many nurses who have been working as an RN for many years, a PhD in Nursing can feel like a natural progression. For their career and for their education too.
A nursing PhD is research-based. So, if you were the nurse who was always reading papers, it could be the best option for you, but it can also be helpful if you want to work in private practice. Or, if you are looking to take on a more administrative position.
This qualification can also make you an ever more respected member of healthcare. As it requires extensive knowledge of the field to complete. While also allowing you to set into motion some of your own theories about how nursing can develop.
Are there any more benefits to consider? Yes, there are, and the following article aims to highlight them. Allowing you to decide if this is the right career move for you.
A nursing PhD will help you to influence policy.
When you were training as a registered nurse, you probably had some questions. About whom wrote the guidelines, and the nursing policies that you had to abide by.
The answer is nurses with a PhD! Who have helped take part in clinical research to improve medical practice.
Nursing codes and practices are being updated all the time. With a nursing PhD, you will be able to take part in the research which could change the field. This may be a different role from the one you are used to. As it will involve the obtaining of information via statistics, and a lot of data analysis. With the outcome of bettering the longevity and recovery of patients.
This can be a chosen area too. As many nurses have specialties, so do nurses with PhDs. You can take part in research in mental health, or elderly care. Or even the care of patients post-operation. It is worth noting that medical research and development is a long process. So, you may be working on a single project for years at a time, but this kind of study has the best outcome, and are the types that can influence the changes that you think need to be made in this area.
- Prevent Shortages
In the field of nursing overall, there are shortages everywhere, and it may come as no surprise to you that this extends into the area of education. In 2017, nursing schools in the USA had to turn away more than 56,000 nursing undergraduate applicants who were qualified. This is a sad statistic, and it happened because there was a lack of trainers and teachers to educate them.
Trainee nurses can and do learn a lot on the job. Or in placements, but on the academic end, there are shortages everywhere. There are few nurses or nurses with PhDs who can give lectures and provide the essential knowledge needed for better nursing care.
A nurse with a PhD will usually divide their time. Between clinical practice and an institute. Like a university or a college. This will mean that you need to take on more tasks. However, you will also be preventing errors from occurring in clinical placements, and ensuring that trainee nurses are receiving the education that they need. To not only succeed in nursing, but to save patients’ lives.
Remember, teaching at a university may require you to undertake additional training. To perform as a lecturer or tutor. However, it is well worth it to help the field of nursing.
Everyone knows that a nurse is a sophisticated medical professional. They are constantly learning on the job. While also attending courses and updating their skill set.
Despite this, there is still a somewhat outdated view of nurses. Many people believe that nursing is not as advanced as being a doctor. Or a consultant, and many also believe that it is solely focused on caring for patients. Rather than gaining any academic knowledge of medicine.
This is, of course, not true; and by earning a PhD in nursing you will be seen as on par with doctors. Your knowledge will be regarded by many as more valuable to the field. You may even be able to earn as much as a specialist consultant if you want to.
This qualification will not place your knowledge solely in the clinical field. You may be asked to take part in research more regularly too. Allowing you to focus on the academic area more than the clinical. Which can be great if you want to become a nurse who works at a university.
Remember, that a nursing PhD does not draw a line in the sand with your training. You will still need to attend courses and update your skills. As and when required. So, while you will be at the forefront of medical professionalism, you will still need to take on training.
A nursing PhD is research-based. However, it is a great way to practice for a more administrative role in the area.
If you are looking for a senior role as a nurse, this qualification can help. In fact, many nursing directors hold a PhD in this area.
This is not a coincidence. A PhD can help those in the field of nursing develop their leadership skills. That would be needed as a ward manager. Or a clinical manager position.
Management skills are a large part of this qualification. So, it will look striking on a resume or CV.
- Open Your Own Practice
It isn’t just doctors who can open their own practices, and in the US, many independent practices were opened by those who have a nursing PhD.
This is due in part to the management skills that were mentioned before. As well as the admin skills. This will allow you to choose your own team. As you will know what to look for in a good team. Or a lackluster one.
This opens the door to becoming part of a chain of practices. Where you and your partners can oversee the care of a wider range of patients. Ensuring that they receive the highest level of care.
However, it is worth noting that any PhD does not come without its own challenges.
A key aspect that intimidates many nurses is the funding. Especially when it comes to PhD Unlike the standard training, a PhD is not going to be funded by a single body.
The hospital where you work may be offering to fund your nursing PhD but this may not be a feasible option for nurses who have children. As this may mean that you need to take a cut in your wages to fund the training.
You can attempt to self-fund your PhD but this can be extremely costly. So, it is worth exploring as many funding avenues as possible. Many nurses training for a PhD are happy to take the pay cut from their workplace. If this is not an option for you, talk to your supervisor about what may be the best option for you.
Another thing you will need to consider when undertaking a nursing PhD is the time it will take.
A PhD in this area can take between 3-5 years to complete. This means it is a serious investment for anyone who undertakes it. It is hard to balance the work-life commitment of a standard nursing degree. A PhD tends to occur later in life. So, there are often home commitments that cannot be overlooked. Such as children and partners.
This means that you will need to be exceptional with your time management skills. Or you will need to learn this skill very quickly! Luckily, the majority of registered nurses have brilliant time management skills. So, you may just need a bit of fine-tuning to get them to the PhD level. In some cases, a PhD in this area could take longer than 5 years. Especially if you choose to engage in the course part-time. Once again, it can be worth exploring which option would be the best for you. So, talk to your supervisor and ask other nurses who may currently be training in this area.
When you undertake this PhD, you will already have substantial training behind you. Ergo, your motivation, academically and clinically, will have been tested and you will have passed.
The motivation to complete a PhD has to go a bit deeper, however. You will need to be motivated to study. Even when you don’t need to, and learn new skills. Which may or may not be part of the curriculum for the PhD. Just to ensure that your patients will benefit.
In fact, many people put off undertaking a nursing PhD. Solely due to concerns that it will isolate them. That it will take up all of their time and will put excessive amounts of stress on them.
Luckily, there is help available. In the form of your colleagues, your supervisor, and your tutors. If you are struggling to keep up, be sure to voice this to all of them as required.
- Career Plan
This article has already highlighted some of the areas that you can go to once the PhD is complete, but for some trainee PhD students, this may not be so clear-cut. So, it is worth taking the time to sit down and plan where you want to go with this qualification. Are you looking to move off of the wards and go into research? Or are you more eager to open your own practice? Perhaps, you want to go into politics and have a direct influence on the policies that will impact nursing.
The idea of teaching appeals to many who undertake their nursing PhD. But as mentioned before, once the PhD is over, you may need to undertake more training.
Don’t worry too much if you don’t have set goals in mind, however. The PhD will allow you to explore the area of nursing more deeply and, as always, there will be areas that you enjoy more than others. Which can help you to focus on which parts may make the best option for a career.
When you undertake a PhD, it will be a hard road. Especially if you have no support at home. Or even in your clinical placements.
So, it can be worth exploring who will be available to help you during those days when it all seems too much. Who will offer you help when you seemingly have no support in the workplace?
This can be a friend. Or a family member, but it may be worth talking through with them what some of your concerns going into the PhD are.
That way, they will have a better idea of how to help you in those tough days ahead. That is not to say that you shouldn’t undertake a nursing PhD if you don’t have support, but just be aware that it is a lot harder.
There are many advantages to undertaking a nursing PhD It can help to catapult you to the front of your medical profession. While also helping you to change policies set down in the guidelines. You can even open your own medical practice with a nursing PhD!
There are inevitable challenges too, however. The career paths from this qualification may not be as clear-cut as you had hoped. Or, they may involve additional training. As would be the case with working as a teacher or lecturer. You will need a lot of clinical knowledge to apply for a nursing PhD So, you will also likely be undertaking this qualification later in life. Which will impact funding options. As well as the wages that you will receive during the training.
If you aren’t sure if a nursing PhD is right for you, talk to your colleagues about this option and then begin researching the best universities that can support you.