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Program Overview

Review the curriculum and program design for KU School of Nursing's Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing degree.

The KU School of Nursing has three entry options to the Ph.D. in Nursing program. You can apply to the research doctoral program after completing a BSN, M.S. or DNP degree.

Three Entry Options

M.S.-to-Ph.D. degree requires 67 credit hours: 52 credits of coursework and 15 credits of dissertation.

BSN-to-Ph.D. students complete six additional credits from the graduate nursing core: NRSG 748 Theories for Practice and Research and NRSG 754 Healthcare Research.

  • The post-BSN entry option is for exceptionally well-qualified BSN graduates who wish to progress as rapidly as possible toward the doctoral degree in nursing.

DNP-Ph.D. students complete a special curriculum of 42 credit hours: 27 credits of coursework and 15 credits of dissertation.

  • The DNP-to-Ph.D. option is an accelerated pathway that prepares the graduate to conduct independent research for nursing science.

Format Combinations

  • Three on-campus one-week summer intensives at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
  • Online coursework throughout the academic year, including synchronous web-based conferencing on a regular basis.
  • On-campus and e-mentoring by faculty for research and career advisement and scholar development.

Each student has a primary faculty mentor. The KU School of Nursing faculty mentors teach in the doctoral program and are approved for dissertation chair privileges.

The Ph.D. in Nursing program is heavily focused on research skill-building through didactic coursework, seminar learning and application experiences.

The oral comprehensive exam will be conducted at the time of the dissertation proposal defense. Students are required to demonstrate competency in research skills and responsible scholarship.

On-campus Residencies

The first summer intensive provides all students with an orientation to doctoral education, allows a match with an academic and research mentor and offers a structured opportunity to network with fellow students and doctoral faculty.

During the subsequent summer residencies at the end of year two and year three, students will be immersed in coursework and synthesis workshops with faculty advisors/mentors and fellow students.

Each of these workshops will end with a qualifying exam that will evaluate each student's depth of knowledge and skill development. Students must pass this qualifying exam in order to progress to the next level of study.

Sample Program Plans

Time to Complete this Degree

The median time to degree completion for the Ph.D. program is three years for students who graduated in 1986-2012 and completed the course work on a full-time basis. The median time for all students who graduated with a Ph.D. from 1986-2012 is 5.7 years.

Employment After Graduation

Of the Ph.D. program graduates, 75% have been employed in nursing education as faculty members, researchers and administrators. Employment categories for the remaining 25% include directors of research in hospitals, hospital systems and other health agencies, pharmaceutical research, clinical practice settings, National Institutes of Health, consultation, professional writing and nursing administration positions in hospitals and other agencies.

Emphasis Areas

Students can customize their Ph.D. program of study by completing 11 credit hours in one of three emphasis areas: Health Systems, Symptom Science or Education.

Working in consultation with a faculty mentor, students select nine credits of emphasis area coursework that support their research interest. The final two credit hours of the Emphasis Area are completed through enrollment in NRSG 970 - Emphasis Area Synthesis.

For DNP to Ph.D. students, the advanced practice or leadership cognate area from the DNP degree program serves as the emphasis area.

Choose an emphasis area below to view details and dissertation examples:

Emphasis Areas

The study of health care systems is essential to enhanced patient experience, reduced costs, population health and a meaningfully engaged workforce. The Health Systems emphasis area includes the science of organizational leadership, informatics, data science, health services and health policy. Students may choose from a variety of recommended graduate courses in nursing, health policy and management, preventive medicine and statistics.

Examples of KU Ph.D. in Nursing dissertations with a Health Systems emphasis:

  • Detecting Sepsis Using Sepsis-Related Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) and an Electronic Sepsis Prompt in Adult Intensive Care Unit Patients
  • Leading Change in Critical Access Hospitals: A Case Study of the Journey to Magnet
  • Perinatal Mobile (mHealth) Applications: An Evaluation of Content and the Perceptions of Women Who Use Them

Symptom science focuses on understanding the biological and behavioral aspects of symptoms with the goal of developing new knowledge and strategies to foster health and quality of life. Improving understanding of the biology underlying symptoms requires advanced methodological expertise. An "omics" approach advances biomarker discovery and bridges the gap between phenotype and biological mechanisms in order to understand perturbations in homeostasis that may lead to particular symptoms. Symptom science is the pathway to precision health.

The recommended coursework for this emphasis area includes NRSG 950 Symptom Science, NRSG 951 Biomarkers and an elective course.

Examples of KU Ph.D. in Nursing dissertations with a Symptom Science emphasis:

  • Symptom Occurrence and Severity and Health Related Quality of Life in Patients with Breast or Gynecologic Cancer Receiving Matched Cancer Therapy
  • Symptom Occurrence, Severity and Quality of Life as Predicted by Variables Related to the Cancer Condition and Selected Demographic Variables
  • A Qualitative Descriptive Study of the Needs of Older Adults Recently Diagnosed With Cancer

The education emphasis area provides a foundation in education for students interested in traditional faculty positions that engage students to learn a clinical practice discipline. Educational theory is augmented with evidence-based curriculum design and evaluation for those with research interest in traditional educational environments as well as staff development and patient education. Educational scholarship, with an emphasis on interprofessional team preparation and technology-based teaching-learning modalities (including simulation), is encouraged.

Students will select three of the following courses: NRSG 870 Teaching Strategies, NRSG 871 Curriculum/Program Planning and Evaluation, NRSG 873 Teaching with Technologies, NRSG 874 Health Professions Educator Preceptorship.

Examples of KU Ph.D. in Nursing dissertations with an Education emphasis:

  • Readiness to Learn about Infant Feeding in Mothers of NICU Infants
  • Perceptions and Experiences of Baccalaureate Nursing Program Leaders Related to Nursing Informatics
  • Faculty Descriptions of the Student Preparation Phase in Undergraduate Nursing Simulation: A Qualitative Descriptive Study
Program Objectives
  • Develop expertise in the application of theoretical and conceptual frameworks to nursing.
  • Conduct and communicate research that advances the body of scientific nursing knowledge.
  • Analyze, develop, and evaluate concepts and theories that contribute to the science of nursing.
  • Evaluate the impact of the expanded knowledge base in nursing and external force on the provision of health care to society and on the development of health care policy.
  • Examine the ways in which nursing knowledge and practice are influenced by historical developments, philosophical thought and cultural diversity.

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