I will be (knock on wood) finishing my MSN in spring 07. I know I would like to continue on to the PhD, and would like to do so shortly after graduating. I will have been an RN for about 2 1/2 years at that point (as a staff RN). My concern is that most of the people entering doctorate programs seem to have been nurses forever with tons of experience and have held a variety of positions. On the other hand, there does seem to be some sort of a push to encourage newer nurses to enter graduate study sooner (i.e. BSN-Phd programs). I just don't know how that plays out in the real world. Obviously my best bet is to talk to the programs I am interested in. But I like to bounce my thoughts off people here first.
Sep 20, '06
Completing a Phd dissertation is hard work. It requires that you become a true expert in a topic and spend a long time (usually more than a year -- preferably 2 or 3 years) focusing on it in depth. Have you really identified your strengths and interests within nursing well enough to make a committment to a research program in that topic at this point of your career? Are you sure you won't find a topic that suits you better?
If you have enough experience and self-knowledge to make that committment, then you are ready and should go for it. If you are still "searching for that special aspect of nursing," then I would recommend waiting a little while and practicing in an advanced role before taking the next step forward. For example, you could get a job at the Master's level and then begin to investigate schools and go through the interview process, etc. By the time you have chosen a school, you will have more experience and be more prepared for the program.
Most of all, I think you are right. You will need to talk with the schools that interest you. If they frequently accept PhD students with minimal experience into their program, then their classes, resources, expectations, etc. will be in line with your needs. However, if accepting inexperienced students into their program is not common, then you need to be aware that you may struggle in the program as it is geared toward students with needs and abilities that are different from yours. That will make a big difference.
Sep 21, '06
While I understand that nursing in itself isn't as academic as say, Comparative Literature, most nursing PhDs are academic degrees. A lot of people in academic fields go straight through BS-MS-PhD and there is nothing wrong with that. I think if you really want to help the field of nursing, which has a desparate shortage of PhDs, then go straight through, get your PhD without the extra work experience. One of the biggest problems with nurses with PhDs is that too many of them don't earn their PhDs until very late in there careers and then retire after a short time. What a waste.
Bedside nursing can give you some sweet anecdotes, but at this point, will 10-20 years of bedside nursing give you anymore information that you need to have to complete your dissertation?
As far as identifying your strenghts and interests--come on, you are earning your MSN, I think it is pretty safe to say that you probably know what kind of nurse you want to be when you grow up. If you want experience at the MSN level, it wouldn't hurt to have a part time APN job just to gain confidence.
I'd say go for it before life happens and slows you down too much. Disregard all the naysayers who think you have to "put in your time" to earn your PhD.
Last edit by romie on Sep 21, '06
Sep 26, '06
You can also consider going part time and working part time. The push to get us to go straight through is strong at my institution. This is good for some, who know exactly what they want to do, and not so good for others. Honestly, I think people who want to do it know they want to do it, and there isn't really anything anyone would be able to say to convince them that they aren't ready.
I agree with both of the other posters in that 1) you have to find the program that's right for you, and 2) a little experience never hurts.
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