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PhD or DNP to become Faculty?

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by adventure_rn adventure_rn, BSN (Member)

adventure_rn is a BSN and specializes in NICU, PICU.

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Hi all! I know that similar topics have been asked on this forum, but I'd love to get some input on my specific situation.

I'm a BSN-prepared nurse with ~5 years of NICU/PICU experience. Long-term, I'd like to be a full-time nursing faculty member at a 4-year college or university (I love academia), ideally while still picking up PRN NICU nursing shifts just for fun.

I've gotten mixed feedback about whether the PhD or the DNP would be more valuable for working as (non-tenure) faculty in an academic setting. It seems that some facilities prefer one over the other, while others are ambivalent.

At this point, I've little-to-no interest in working as an NP; in fact, I'm hesitant to pursue an NP degree because I worry it might prevent me from continuing to pick up NICU RN shifts (my passion). However, I've had some NPs recommend that I pursue an NP specifically because the DNP route is preferable to the PhD in a non-tenure nurse faculty setting.

I'm very enthusiastic about my research project topic, but I don't know that I'm interested enough to become a career researcher; therefore, tenure track seems unlikely.

Logistically/financially, the PhD makes a lot more sense to me. I'd have to pay for the DNP out-of-pocket, whereas the PhD program is fully-funded (no cost for books/tuition) with free healthcare coverage and a generous stipends (~$40,000/year). In contrast, I may have to pay upwards of $50,000 for the DNP. Both degrees can be completed in three years.

A friend of mine who works as an NP in an academic setting was trying to explain to me the NP-to-DNP is preferable over the PhD in a nurse faculty (non-tenure) setting, but I guess I'm just not seeing the benefit? Is there something I'm missing? It seems as though an NP degree with no NP experience is relatively useless; my understanding is that I'd have to work as an NP (again, which I have minimal interest in doing) in order to make it worthwhile. Can somebody shed some light on this topic.

Any and all feedback is much appreciated.

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not.done.yet has 8 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development.

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I have seen both and have heard the exact opposite of what you have - that academia values the Ph.D. more than the DNP.

It bears noting that you can get a DNP that is NOT a nurse practitioner. There are DNPs in nursing education and that would be a good pathway to explore.

 

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adventure_rn is a BSN and specializes in NICU, PICU.

1 Article; 16,526 Visitors; 1,044 Posts

4 hours ago, not.done.yet said:

It bears noting that you can get a DNP that is NOT a nurse practitioner. There are DNPs in nursing education and that would be a good pathway to explore.

 

I've been thinking a bit about that. At the core, the education-based DNP curriculum includes classes about education, the NP-based DNP curriculum includes the 3Ps plus classes about your chosen population, and the PhD curriculum includes classes about conducting research. So in reality, the MSN/DNP in education aligns most closely with learning to actually teach.

I've always found it a bit strange that the majority of professors (in any field) are researchers, as researchers don't necessarily make good educators, and PhD programs don't necessarily prepare aspiring professors to teach. However, that seems to be the progression for the majority of people in higher education.

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Yes, PhD nurses do focus on research, but much of their research is related to education. I find that PhD nurses do get more "respect" when it comes to education....(Heard this from an Acute Care NP director).

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TiffyRN has 26 years experience as a ADN, BSN and specializes in NICU.

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Thankfully the program I am in (BSN to PhD) included some MSN-Education basics (the ones required if you want to eventually sit the Certified Nurse Educator exam). I was also able to do a practicum with a nursing professor. But this is only because I came in as a BSN. My cohorts who started as MSN did not take these same education courses, only the research focused courses.  

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m4howie has 8 years experience as a ADN, BSN and specializes in LTC, TCU, Drug Rehab, Med/Surg, ICU Stepdown.

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This is slightly off topic but I think it will help answer your question. While in nursing school my pathophysiology instructor had a Phd in Pharmacology and she was working in a masters in education at the University of MN. I asked her why she was teaching at a community college instead of a 4 year university. She stated that there is an expectation of PhD instructors to continue research as well as teach. Research findings/results bring prestige to the school and often generates revenue if the data can be sold or leads to products being made. She did not want to have to deal with doing research. She just wanted to focus on teaching. 

There is a shortage of nursing educators. Universities have no problem hiring DNPs because they can teach clinicals and handle other administrative tasks PhD faculty instructors don't want to deal with. On the other hand, PhD instructions would be expected to teach as well as do research. I forgot to mention that research is funded by grants so it is actually a revenue stream for schools. My teacher stated that you have to always be looking for and filling out applications for funding.  As a DNP your a shielded from this aspect of the world of academia. 

(Ps I am at the end of my night shift so I hope this makes sense.) :)

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Just a quick question - how is your PhD funding covered?

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adventure_rn is a BSN and specializes in NICU, PICU.

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On 7/3/2019 at 9:58 AM, Nurse grower said:

Just a quick question - how is your PhD funding covered?

The program I'm interested in is fully funded with a stipend through the graduate school. It's a swanky, research-oriented private university with a highly-ranked nursing school.

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adventure_rn is a BSN and specializes in NICU, PICU.

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I met up with an instructor at my undergrad nursing program, and she explained that the program has tenure-track and non-tenure-track full-time faculty; I thought I'd post her information in case others folks reading through this forum have the same questions that I had:

The category of tenure-track faculty is filled entirely by nurses with PhDs. Their main goal is conducting research and securing grant funding to conduct that research. They are full-time faculty with the potential to become tenured; in some institutions, their salary is related to how much grant funding they bring in. In general, they spend a minimal amount of time teaching.

The category of non-tenure-track full-time faculty (which I was inquiring about in my original post) is called different things at different institutions: fixed-term faculty, contract faculty, limited-term faculty, etc. This role is preferentially filled by either PhD-prepared or DNP-prepared nurses, however some universities will allow MSN-prepared nurses to fill this role (although they're usually pressured/expected to earn a doctoral degree within a certain amount of time). These faculty members can still be associate, assistant, or full 'professors,' and are not adjunct (as adjunct is only part-time and these professors are full-time). At the two institutions where I've investigated (my local universities), it doesn't really matter if you have a DNP or a PhD; both DNPs or PhDs are equally qualified to teach undergrads, although DNPs are preferred to teach NP students in their own field (for obvious reasons). In addition to teaching, they're also responsible for administrative duties and student support roles (like mentorship, program admissions, or organizing clinical sites). Their full-time status is portioned out into these different activities (i.e. 30% classroom time, 70% administrative time).

It is noteworthy that by the nature of fixed-term or contract faculty (in any field of academia, not just nursing), faculty are only hired on for a contracted period of time (i.e. 3-5 years) with the opportunity to renew indefinitely. This is very different from tenured faculty, where once you're tenured you have a guaranteed position forever. My instructor explained that while it was nerve-wracking during her first contract to think that she was only 'guaranteed' 3 years, she realized that there was no reason that her contract wouldn't get renewed indefinitely.

Ironically, the feedback I got is that fixed-term faculty (including PhDs) are actually discouraged from seeking out research grants because research screws up their time allocation for the rest of their tasks (i.e. if I were 30% teaching and 70% admin but got a grant, I'd have to go to 20% teaching, 20% research, and 60% admin). They can do it, but research really isn't their job. They are encouraged to seek out non-research grants, like grants to develop programs within the school.

I did have one final takeaway which was fascinating. I asked if there was any way to adopt a part-time fixed-term role in order to continue working at the bedside; at this specific facility, she said that part-time positions aren't possible, and that all non-tenure-track faculty are required to work 40-hour weeks Monday-Friday 9-5. She and a few other faculty members tried to keep their feet in bedside nursing by maintaining a PRN job of the weekends, but found that it was too much to do 12-hour shifts on the weekends in addition to a Monday-Friday full-time job. I'm sure that part-time opportunities may vary based on the institution, but I was kind of disappointed as I'd hoped I could work 0.7 or 0.8 FTE and continue to do a shift every couple of weeks.

However, the fascinating piece is that there is a caveat (at least at that school) for DNP-prepared nurse practitioners (compared to PhDs); at this institution, fixed-term faculty who are NPs have to be given at least a day a week to do do clinical work in order to maintain their NP licensure. For instance, their workload breakdown might look like 20% clinical time, 20% teaching, 60% admin. This is because NP certifying boards require that NPs have a certain number of clinical hours, whereas RNs can still maintain their nursing licenses without actively working in a bedside role. My main takeaway about the PhD vs. DNP fixed-term faculty role is that DNPs have clinical time built into their faculty schedules, whereas PhDs don't.

I'd be curious to know if people at other institutions have seen this same practice breakdown. I did some research on the internet and found that this distinction (tenure-track vs. fixed-term) seems to be standard in other academic fields (here's the APA take on fixed-term faculty in psychology). In retrospect, I realized that about 95% of my instructors in nursing school fell into the fixed-term faculty category.

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m4howie has 8 years experience as a ADN, BSN and specializes in LTC, TCU, Drug Rehab, Med/Surg, ICU Stepdown.

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On 7/3/2019 at 8:58 AM, Nurse grower said:

Just a quick question - how is your PhD funding covered?

I have spoken with the admissions department at the University of Minnesota and the first two years of fully funded. After that the faculty help students find grants/scholarships to pay for their continued education. I did not ask specifically where the money comes from for the first two years. In my search for PhD programs I am finding that about 50% are free. For clarity this is only Phd programs. This does not apply to DNP programs. The creation of the DNP degree has resulted in a huge shortage of PhD educated nurses. I assume universities are creating grants to make education free to entice more nurses to get PhDs. I do know that programs with free education are extremely competitive. 

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adventure_rn is a BSN and specializes in NICU, PICU.

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On 7/3/2019 at 9:58 AM, Nurse grower said:

Just a quick question - how is your PhD funding covered?

Great point from m4howie. Just wanted to add that there's also something called the Nurse Faculty Loan Program for people who have to pay their own tuition. I don't know very much about it (beyond people discussing it on this forum), but my understanding is that your loans through the program are forgiven if you spend a certain number of years teaching (so I'm not sure if it would be forgiven if you sought out a tenure-track research-based position).

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FurBabyMom has 8 years experience as a BSN, RN.

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The school I'm currently attending has a mix of DNP and PhD prepared faculty.  The current open positions specify either.  Well, technically they will take a Master's prepared nurse contingent that they will complete a PhD or DNP within a specified time - but that is very dependent on the applicant themselves.

I'm navigating the DNP vs PhD conundrum right now, but I think the applicability really depends on whether you want to be "defining new knowledge" and "proving something" on your own or not.  All of the faculty I've worked with throughout my time in our Master's program have been working on projects and research, but most are very student involved (where parts of their projects become a student (or students') Masters or DNP projects).

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