My PhD Journey – Part 1

by VickyRN 9,947 Views | 25 Comments Senior Moderator

This blog describes my experience in a challenging PhD program, while working full time as nursing faculty. I am pleased to announce that I am now at the halfway point of my PhD journey and a dissertation awaits!

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    My PhD Journey – Part 1

    It is hard to believe that it has been three years since I started the epic journey towards a PhD in nursing, as a part-time student who already had a full plate as full time nursing faculty in a busy university setting. Since then, I have alternately been exhausted and invigorated, with never a dull moment in between. I have been stretched to the limit, challenged beyond my natural ability, and equipped with a wide range of academic skills beyond my wildest dreams.

    The PhD nursing program at my university consists of 50 to 56 semester hours of coursework, to be completed over three to five years. Due to my whirlwind schedule, I quickly learned to multi-task and take advantage of every free moment. Somehow during each successive semester, every assignment was completed satisfactorily on time. A ‘little here’ sprinkled to a ‘little there’ caused even the most intimidating mountain of scholarly work to become manageable. In the midst of it all, I grew in ways I could never have envisioned. For instance, I can now write effectively with clarity and insight and can make tangible connections between nebulous concepts and ideas.

    Way back in fall 2008, I embarked on my journey into the doctoral world by taking the first core course, Philosophy of Science. There I was quickly submerged into assigned readings of numerous books and articles written in almost incomprehensible language that discussed foreign concepts such as ontology, epistemology, phenomenology, existentialism, rationalism, empiricism, positivism, and realism. I couldn't even pronounce these topics, much less understand them. I felt totally lost. As I persevered, however, a whole new world opened up to me. I was introduced to some of the brightest minds throughout human history: Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Husserl, Popper, and Kuhn – just to name a few.

    Another core course was Statistical Methods, which included critiquing numerous nursing research articles and conducting statistical analyses with research data. We learned to use the dreaded SPSS software with the same familiarity and ease as Excel or Word. We performed descriptive statistics, multiple regression, logistic regression, factor analysis, and structural equation modeling.

    One class had us perform a concept analysis, while studying nursing theories/ theorists in depth, as we completed three major research papers in one semester (this was quite a feat, while working full time). Of course, it was the expectation that our papers be crafted in immaculate APA style.

    During yet another semester, my cohort and I explored quantitative and qualitative research methodologies in great detail, actually performing a mini-qualitative study from start to finish!

    By the end of the spring semester of this year (2011), I had successfully completed all coursework in the curriculum plan – a notable milestone. It was now time for me to sit for the Doctoral Candidacy Exam, to assess my readiness to pursue independent research and my ability to think critically. The candidacy exam consists of a written and oral portion. The written part was five questions, open book, and I had eight days to complete it. During that week, I barely slept or ate, while I feverishly cranked out 30 pages of typed material to turn in. This was, of course, in addition to my faculty duties. The oral part consisted of me appearing before the three members of my candidacy committee for approximately two hours, while I defended my written responses to the questions. The experience was grueling, bruising, and exhausting – that’s all I want to say about it. As the committee members grilled me unrelentingly, I felt certain that I had failed the candidacy process. Imagine my surprise when they announced at the end of the two-hour ordeal that I had passed!

    Now that I have achieved the status of doctoral candidate, I must form my dissertation committee, further refine my research topic and research question, and then begin to pursue my dissertation research. Please stay tuned for Part 2….
    Last edit by Joe V on May 16, '11
    athena55, mystory, jabernathy, and 60 others like this.
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  3. About VickyRN

    VickyRN is a certified nurse educator (NLN) and certified gerontology nurse (ANCC). Her research interests include: the special health and social needs of the vulnerable older adult population; registered nurse staffing and resident outcomes in intermediate care nursing facilities; and, innovations in avoiding institutionalization of frail elderly clients by providing long-term care services and supports in the community. She is faculty in a large baccalaureate nursing program in North Carolina.

    VickyRN joined Mar '01 - from 'Under the shadow of His wings...'. VickyRN has '16' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds'. Posts: 12,043 Likes: 6,425; Learn more about VickyRN by visiting their allnursesPage


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    25 Comments so far...

  4. 5
    So exciting. I'm excited for you. Imagine how all this hard work will pay off when you wear the regalia and become a PhD. Your contribution towards nursing research will be signficant - I'm sure of it.
    mystory, NRSKarenRN, futurernjap, and 2 others like this.
  5. 1
    Congrats!!!
    VickyRN likes this.
  6. 1
    Wow!! I had a professor like you and she is my mentor. For all of the tiring hours you will reap rewards but also know that someone with your drive inspires students to strive to go beyond what they imagined. Great work and Good Luck!!
    VickyRN likes this.
  7. 1
    Good work, VickieRN. Now ... on to your dissertation... where you put all that newly gained knowledge into practice.
    VickyRN likes this.
  8. 1
    This article scared me, as I want to attain a PhD in Nursing one day, but at the same time, it was inspiring.
    VickyRN likes this.
  9. 1
    This was so wonderfully written and so descriptive. wow! You opened up my eyes.! Please continue to write!!! i shall read all your articles.... i almost pictured myself doing a PHD
    VickyRN likes this.
  10. 2
    Wow! You are an inspiration to all nurses everywhere. Thank you and keep going, you are awesome.
    SilentfadesRPA and VickyRN like this.
  11. 2
    Having witnessed your journey from afar, I can say this: I never doubted you would succeed, and your dedication/determination are inspiring. Following in the footsteps of someone like you keeps me going- you are mentor and example in more ways than you know, my friend.
    NRSKarenRN and VickyRN like this.
  12. 2
    VickyRN "you rock"
    I actually had tears come to my eyes, I'm so excited for you and I actually believe this could be me one day. Thank you fora all you contribute to this website. You have helped me in more ways than you know. Good luck in all you do and keep us informed.
    VickyRN and BrookeeLou_RN like this.


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