Strategies and Resources for Increasing the PhD Pipeline and Producing Independent Nurse Scientists

Academic Article


  • Nurse scientists play an indispensable role in developing new knowledge to advance the health of patients, families, and communities. Yet PhD nurse enrollment has significantly dropped, and many later career nurse scientists are nearing retirement. The purpose of this article is to outline potential strategies to enhance the PhD nurse pipeline. Potential strategies are identified at three distinct time points along the PhD trajectory: (a) prior to a PhD program (increasing the pipeline), (b) during a PhD program (enhancing graduation rates and transitioning into research-focused careers), and (c) in the postdoctoral or early career period (establishing scholarly independence and an active program of research). Talented students should be approached early on in their education to ascertain interest in a scientific research-based career, and all students could be engaged in research opportunities while in undergraduate programs. During a PhD program, supportive mentors are a key component for student success and may provide assistance in obtaining ongoing funding and scholarship support. Throughout doctoral study and into early career, less structured opportunities can be influential, including conference support, online and face-to-face training, and ongoing funding and scholarship support for postdoctoral study or fellowships. At each career stage, there should be a focus on designing scientifically sound nursing research that will impact outcomes in measurable and sustainable ways. We must not focus our attention only on student recruitment. Public messaging efforts are needed to raise awareness of the role of nurse researchers. In addition, several stakeholders play a role in increasing the PhD pipeline and producing independent nurse scientists, and they should be acknowledged in these efforts. The strategies described may be beneficial for any nurse contemplating a research career as well as for those who may serve as mentors to these individuals. More broadly, these strategies may be employed by colleges and universities, funding bodies, professional nursing societies, and healthcare organizations in the United States and abroad. Increasing the PhD pipeline, and fostering a more robust field of independent nurse scientists, will translate into improved patient outcomes.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Stanfill AG; Aycock D; Dionne-Odom JN; Rosa WE
  • Start Page

  • 717
  • End Page

  • 726
  • Volume

  • 51
  • Issue

  • 6