(May 23, 2001)
At its May 11 meeting, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors gave its seal of approval to the East Carolina University School of Nursing
to establish a doctor of philosophy in nursing degree program.
"We're very excited about offering a Ph.D. in nursing and feel this program will fit nicely with the other doctoral programs that are already in place at ECU," said Dr. Phyllis N. Horns, dean of the nursing school. "We will have some uniqueness in our doctoral degree in that it will have a strong interdisciplinary component involving faculty and individuals from several different academic disciplines."
The doctorate will be only the second doctoral-level nursing degree to be offered in North Carolina, the other being at UNC-Chapel Hill. In neighboring states, the University of South Carolina offers a doctoral degree in nursing as do four Virginia universities.
Horns hopes to admit the first students in 2002 and feels the program will attract students who will take the nursing school to a higher scholastic level. "The program will bring us a different kind of student, which will be challenging for our faculty and at the same time enriching for our students and all of us at the School of Nursing."
The doctoral program should also be a catalyst for attracting younger students in addition to the traditional nursing post-graduate candidates who are usually in their late 40s and early 50s. In addition to a national clinical nurse shortage, universities across the United States are beginning to see a shortage in nursing faculty. At ECU, Horns anticipates that a majority of the school's nursing faculty will be eligible for retirement within the next 10 years.
"Our Ph.D. program will help train individuals who plan to move into university faculty positions, research posts, health administration or positions as health policy analyst and leaders," Horns said. "We see this program as a way to educate the faculty who will train the next generation of nurses."
At ECU, nursing doctoral research will focus on family health care and clinical nursing science.
ECU plans to start the program with three new faculty members and four or five students, beginning their studies in the fall of 2002. The current state budget crisis could sidetrack the beginning of the program, Horns said, if funding is not available for the additional faculty. ECU's next step involves course development and development of recruitment materials by the nursing interdisciplinary doctoral planning committee. The group will also identify research space for the program within the Rivers Building.