PhD vs. ND

  1. I am seeking some input regarding a personal, professional dilemma. It is about the pros and cons of PhD vs. ND.

    I had a long post drafted, with my personal story, but I decided it would be best to just get to my question.

    To those of you who are faculty in academic programs, do you work with any NDs? How are they treated? Are their contributions respected? How do you see their opportunities for advancement? I know there are not many programs offering the ND, so is it considered "strange" or questionable?

    I am a full time educator, and teaching is where I aim to stay. But my current work situation is in a non-traditional setting. I don't want to burn any bridges, in case I want to work somewhere else in the future.

    Thanks for any and all input.

    CRNA teacher
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  3. by   JNJ
    I've worked with both in traditional academic settings and non-traditional nurse learning environments. I do not see any difference in general treatment, but I do not know for sure any of the traditional academic issues involved.

    I worked with an ND curriculum consultant who was recommended by the BRN.

    Not definitive, I realize, but a little background for you.
  4. by   CRNA teacher

    Thanks for the input. I realize this is just one example, but it does help relieve my anxiety a little.

    CRNA teacher
  5. by   llg
    I'm curious ... I got my PhD from a school that also has an ND program and had lots of interaction with the ND students and faculty. I thought I was reasonably well-informed for someone not directly involved ... but apparently, I am missing something. Perhaps you wouldn't mind explaining so that I can be better informed.

    Why is it a choice for you? All the ND programs I know of designed for people with BS or BA degrees in field other than nursing. They take their ND program (roughly equivalent to medical or law school in length) and then are "doctors of nursing."

    PhD programs are designed for nurses with master's degrees in nursing already. PhD degrees are more geared toward philosophy, theory, and research and are designed to prepare people for academia. ND degrees are geared more toward advanced practice. While they may choose to teach at a university level (and appropriately so), ND's have a few limitations in academia in that their degree is not considered as "high" in academia and their may be some restrictions about serving on dissertation committees, etc.

    At least that's what I thought -- perhaps I am wrong. Your original post gives the impression that you are choosing between the two pathways to "doctorhood." Are there ND programs that accept people who are nurses already? And if you are not a nurse already, how can you be considering a PhD program?

    Of course, there are also doctoral programs that offer DSN, DNS, and DNSc degrees. Most of these are pretty similar to PhD programs, but can't call the degree PhD because the school chooses not to jump through all the hoops that the PhD degree requires. Some schools with those alternative doctoral degrees gear them a little more towards practice than PhD programs.

    Just curious. I like to keep up-to-date on these things.

    Thanks for any info you can share,
  6. by   CRNA teacher

    I appreciate your comments, and the opportunity to give some details about my own situation.

    You are correct about ND programs, they are designed for entry level nurses. I am considering a ND program that allows entry of RNs who already have a MSN.

    Actually, your post helps me clarify why I feel so torn. I am a nurse anesthetist, an advanced practice nurse. So there is a natural fit in the ND category. A big advantage is that I can accomplish it in MUCH less time than a PhD. I am almost 50 years old, so I have to consider the time factor.

    On the other hand, I am a full time educator. I am currently employed by a hospital based nurse anesthesia program. I have not been mandated to earn a doctorate, but as a personal choice I want to do so. A ND would put me head and shoulders above most of my colleagues (there is only one doctorate CRNA in my state, and she has a law degree).

    But what if one day I want to work in a university, in a Nursing department? As your say, these pure academic environments favor the PhD. Will I be at a huge disadvantage compared to the PhD prepared professor?

    Yes, I considered the DNSc route. But in the time it would take to do that, I could get a PhD. So I have pretty much ruled that out. My thoughts are--the PhD is the top of the pyramid, and the others just below. So an ND is pretty comparable to other non-PhD doctorates. (Any thoughts on this reasoning?)

    This is the source of my indecision. Although, I do think I am leaning toward the ND.

    I continue to be open to additional comments, from you, or others.


    CRNA teacher
  7. by   llg
    Boy ... I can really understand your dilemma. It seems to me that your understanding of the situation is pretty much the way I understand it. So, I don't know that I have all that more to add. It may come down to what your "gut" says will make you happiest in the long run. I'm a big believer in that. Do what seems right, take your best shot, then live with the results.

    Where I went to school (Univ. of Colorado Health Sciences Center), they had an ND program and there were a couple of ND people on the faculty. With that observation from my background and with the knowledge that the shortage of PhD's in nursing is already severe and expected to become worse ..... my GUESS is that an ND would be welcome in most environments. There might just be a few limitations to serving on dissertation committees, chairing committees, etc.

    However, there may be a few schools with little experience with ND graduates who are not so accepting. I think that number would be relatively small. Also, you don't have all that many career years left, so the convenience and expense factor are big considerations. Please don't be offended by that remark. I am going to be 48 years old in a couple of weeks and I find that as I get closer to retirment (in 15 -20 years), my perspective on some career issues has changed a bit.

    I hope it all works out for you,
  8. by   CRNA teacher

    I am not the least offended by the consideration of age. I think it is an important consideration. I see people my age considering entry into nurse anesthesia, and I wonder if they have really given thought to their "years of service" left.

    And if I was 100% sure I will never leave my current employment, I would not even consider the time a PhD would take. A ND would serve my needs fine, where I am right now.

    My concern was about other environments. I was afraid of hearing "Gee, we've never heard of an ND. Are you sure that is a nursing doctorate?". Or "We wouldn't let an ND teach in OUR nursing school".

    Instead, I am hearing people say they have worked with NDs, and they are held in a favorable light. So now I know that NDs are not completely limited to just schools/geographic areas where ND programs are located.

    I totally agree with the "gut" factor. Throughout my life I have noticed that no matter how hard you work for something, if it is not meant to be, it ain't-a-gonna happen. But once you take the first step on the right path, it starts to come easier (though you still have to work hard). That is how I am beginning to feel about the PhD. I don't seem to making any progress toward it. It's time to try the feel of a different path to my goal.

    Thanks for your words of encouragement.

    CRNA teacher
  9. by   JNJ
    Something from me again that's a little away from your first enquiry, but as an experiential offering I volunteer the following info. about myself:

    I entered a Ph.D program (I hold MSN) shortly before turning 50 and completed about one third of it. I found the work busy rather than too challenging and was full time faculty myself at the time. I had promised myself this degree for 20+ years and was initially so excited to be doing it.

    After a couple of years I began to think about quality of life issues; the time and money spent on the Ph.D. versus what else I might achieve before I retired. I was never under the illusion that the degree would recoup the dollars I spent on it, because I really did not see myself in academia until retirement.

    I had always said that I wanted to finish on a clinical high rather than an academic low. I had seen too many Ph.D. nurses in academia under huge pressure to publish and teach, still paying off their study loans, and with limited expectations of tenure.

    My husband, the engineer, stated that the rest of the Ph.D. would remodel the kitchen (I enjoy cooking), or fund some exotic vacations etc etc, but the choice was truly mine.

    I gave it up and have never looked back. Not doing it freed me to return to independent practice, to work part time and to enjoy myself in the now-gorgeous kitchen.

    Just food for thought. I do agree with the 'follow your heart' posting too.
  10. by   CRNA teacher

    Thank you for your additional comments, I can tell they are heart felt.

    My estimate of my future in a PhD program sounds very much like your actual experience. I have spent the last solid year just trying to get ready. My full time teaching committments are huge, and are only expanding. Like everyone in nursing, we are all being asked to do more and more, with less and less resources.

    Setting realistic goals is a critical step of planning. The input here has been very valuable.

    CRNA teacher
  11. by   haa
    Hi, CRNA teacher, JNJ, and IIg,

    I really like your posts on this topic. Actually I am in the same kind of dilemma now.

    I am 25 with a BSN degree, and I just got my RN license. I am thinking of both CRNA and PhD on nursing. One of this would offer me an exciting, challenging job(also good money), and the other could lead me to a career on teaching. I know both are excellent occupations and I like both of them. But at the same time, I admit that I don't know what I really like. This kind of uncenrtainty comes from my experience. Although I have a BSN and RN license, I have never practiced nursing before. I don't know what are the real life for a CRNA or a nursing professor(in the universities). After graduation, I came to US to study sociology in 2001. Soon I will get my MA degree. Now I want to switch back to nursing, and it's time for me to make a decision on the important next step. I am really lost, and puzzled. The lack of experience, uncertainty, and the difficulty to make a choice make me crazy!

    I know all of you have gone through these. You must have something to say about my situation. I am very happy if you could share your opinion with me. Your help is highly appreciated!

    Thanks, and merry Christmas!

  12. by   haa
    Ok, here are my two plans:

    1. work at ICU for 1-2 years-->CRNA school-->work and part time PhD
    2. PhD and part time working in ICU--> CRNA school

    I do want to get a PhD, but I am not very sure whether or not I will go to academia or stay at clinical settings. After a couple pf years, I might go back to my home country and I want to teach there.
  13. by   CRNA teacher

    I don't really see where you are limited to an either/or choice.

    I became a CRNA, had to go back to school for a MSN (because anesthesia programs were not masters at that time), and am now working on a doctorate.

    As bad as Nursing needs doctorates, nurse anesthesia needs them even more badly! There is a huge shortage of anesthesia providers, and nurse anesthesia programs are working like crazy to meet the demand. We need more faculty, to be able to graduate more anesthesia providers, to meet the market place needs. (While "traditional" nursing faculty may teach some courses that student nurse anesthetists take, every nurse anesthesia program needs faculty who are CRNAs)

    Seems to me like you are young enough to get your ICU experience, become a CRNA, and then think about what kind of doctorate to pursue. And making those high tuition payment is much easier with a CRNA salary!

    I enjoy teaching in a nurse anesthesia program. But I am also qualified (and will be even better qualified after getting my doctorate) to teach in basic nursing education. I have never ruled that out as a career option. Although, the way things look now, I will never run out of job opportunites in anesthesia education!

    So, I encourage you to do both-nurse anesthesia and education.

    CRNA teacher
  14. by   llg
    Just to let you know ... Even though I have a PhD, I work in a hospital. I have spent a little time teaching in a university, but never found quite the right fit for me there. As a PhD-prepared nurse in a hospital setting, I get the right blend of "real world practicality" and "scholarliness" for me.

    Currently, I do staff development and act as a liaison to the local schools of nursing. I also work on a lot of special projects for our Vice President of Nursing. I collect and analyze data on recruitment and retention, develop new programs for students, investigate things for the VP, etc. It's a bit of a hodge-podge, but that flexibility is to my liking.

    I don't make a fortune, but I make enough to live comfortably as a single woman. My salary is in the upper half of the Clinical Nurse Specialist range. While that might seem a bit low for someone with a PhD, it's OK with me because of the quality of my work life. I have extremely flexible hours and the ability to set my own priorities most of the time. I am not responsible for any staffing, can set my own hours, etc. I am pretty sure I have one of the most pleasant, self-directed jobs in nursing. I am treated so well by my employer that I am not going to be picky about the money. As I tell myself, "If they paid me more, they would expect me to work harder!"

    You might want to consider some of the other career options and not just focus on the two options you thought of first. There are a lot of different advanced roles out there.

    Good luck,