Nurse PhD Program

Become a Nurse Educator

Healthcare leaders worry that the country is on the brink of a crisis that has the potential to affect the care of patients—in the hospital, at the doctor’s office, in schools—just about anywhere a nurse is needed.

The problem stems from a shortage of professors to teach aspiring nurses.

“We can’t have more nurses if we don’t have the proper faculty to teach them,” explained Dr. Barbara Patterson, distinguished professor and director of the PhD program in the School of Nursing. “Who’s going to take care of everyone if nursing educators are not being prepared?”

The nursing PhD program at Widener is in a prime position to help fill the void. The program focuses on the science of nursing education, while the majority of other universities focus on clinical or medical research.

Also, less than 1 percent of all nurses in America have a PhD. Widener University is one of very few schools nationally that focuses their doctoral research degree on nursing education.

“At Widener there is a strong focus on the practice of teaching,” said Dr. Laura Dzurec, dean of the School of Nursing. “We’ve built an environment where people want to learn and where students are thinking of cutting-edge practices that they could bring to the field.”

In 2011, the School of Nursing received the designation of a Center of Excellence by the National League for Nursing (NLN) for advancing the science of nursing education. Widener is one of only five schools selected from more than one thousand to receive the designation.

This fall, the School of Nursing is preparing to roll out PhD courses that will be available in a hybrid format as a way to capture more students who cannot come to campus for face-to-face sessions.

Kristen McLaughlin’s path to becoming a nurse educator is one that observers hope many more will follow. McLaughlin started her career as a staff nurse and then became a nurse practitioner. As her role expanded to include more teaching opportunities, she realized that she liked teaching most.

Now in her third year in the PhD program, McLaughlin said she better understands the importance of the practice of teaching. “The program at Widener helped fill the void in the professional growth of my role,” she said. “It’s instilled in me ways to think differently about how people learn.”

She strongly believes in the value of a PhD in nursing education. “It’s helped me become a scholar,” she said. “You learn what questions to ask, how to evaluate those questions through research, assess the outcomes, and implement your findings into the practice.”

To learn more about Widener’s PhD in nursing, visit the program page and read the full story in Widener Magazine.