PhD Nursing Program

Program Overview

The PhD in Nursing is a research-focused degree. There is substantive content and experiential learning in three areas: the conduct of research, the scholarship on chronic illness, and scholarship and leadership in nursing education.
This innovative program prepares the Nurse Scientist Educator (NSE) who will:

  • Develop the science of nursing by conducting and disseminating theory guided research in the chronic illness experience and nursing education.
  • Integrate research, teaching, mentoring and service to the organization and/or profession.
  • Contribute to the development of future nurses through discovery, application and integration.

The NSE student will learn:

  • Qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • The nature of, and criteria for, scientific inquiry
  • To build, synthesize, and apply nursing knowledge
  • Research designs and theoretical perspectives in chronic illness
  • Interdisciplinary approaches to the issues of chronic illness
  • Strategies for developing a program of research
  • About publication, grant development, curriculum design and evaluation

NSE Foundational Educational Concepts:

  • Boyer’s (1990) model of scholarship with its four domains of scholarship—Discovery, Integration, Application, & Teaching—was adopted. 
  • Research on the prevention of chronic illness and the care of people with chronic illness. 
  • Comprehensive curriculum that provides learning, training, and mentorship. 
  • Cohort education, assigned mentors, and structured activities leading to publication and funding.
  • The program is designed to assist the student to develop the knowledge, skills, and habits of an NSE through mentoring, didactic teaching and experience.

Program Highlights

A structured mentorship experience begins upon admission. Students are assigned to work with a specific faculty advisor on academic writing, writing for publication, grant writing, and completing qualifying examination requirements.
The Doctoral Seminar is held three times a semester on topics of nursing research based on student needs and interests.
The students’ experiential learning includes writing for publication, grant writing, opportunities for research and teaching assistantships, qualifying examination, dissertation proposal hearing, and defense of the completed dissertation.
There is exposure to on-line learning and other technology innovations to improve the teaching-learning experience.

Program Requirements

In addition to the usual UMass Dartmouth admission criteria, (see Application to the Program) applicants to the PhD program must complete the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree minimum GPA of 3.0 and Master’s degree minimum GPA of 3.3
  • For BS-PhD applicants, BS minimum GPA 3.5
  • One of these two degrees is from an accredited nursing program
  • Master’s level courses include nursing theory, nursing research and multivariate statistics or equivalents. For BS-PhD applicants these will be completed in the program.
  • Computer competency in word-processing, spread sheets, PowerPoint, statistical software (SPSS), electronic searches, and internet resources.

Degree Requirements

The PhD program is a 52 credit post-MS curriculum that is designed to be completed in 48 months of full-time study including summer work.

The BS-PhD is 73 credit post-BS curriculum that is designed to completed in 60 months of full-time study. After completing 39 credits, students may apply for the MS degree. There is a one-year residency requirement. A Certification Examination demonstrates the student’s mastery of nursing science in promoting health, guiding the illness experience and shaping the health system for people with chronic illness and/or addressing innovations in nursing education. The Qualifying Examination consists of developing one article that is submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. Additionally, qualifying exam is given at the conclusion of year one courses.

The PhD dissertation is an original body of work in which the candidate demonstrates an in-depth understanding of a substantive area in promoting health, guiding the illness experience or shaping the health care system for people living with chronic illness or in nursing education. The dissertation demonstrates the candidate’s ability to effectively incorporate theoretical, conceptual, and methodological tools in addressing the influence of nursing practices and the delivery of nursing services to people living with chronic illnesses.

Application to the PhD program

Program Criteria

  • Three letters of recommendation from people who have supervised the applicant in the academic, professional, or community service setting. If possible, at least one recommendation should be from a doctoral-prepared nursing professor who is familiar with the applicant’s academic work and capacity. The recommendations should address the applicant’s professionalism, leadership, capacity to teach, ability to do graduate work, and potential to advance the discipline of nursing through scholarship.
  • Personal statement of research interest and intent. Please submit, with your application, a typed two-part essay. In the first part (up to 250 words), give your reasons for wishing to pursue graduate study. In the second part (up to 1,000 words), indicate your research interests and goals for doctoral study. Use plain paper and put your name on each page.
  • All applicants are encouraged to submit supporting credentials (curriculum vitae and published articles) with their applications.
  • An example of scholarly writing (for example, a peer reviewed publication or a paper from graduate school).
  • Current Massachusetts Registered Nurse license
  • One year of professional nursing experience.

UMass Dartmouth Criteria

  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended (regardless if a credential is earned or not)
  • Scholarly writing samples (minimum 10 pages) – if no published articles available.

Application Review

The Admissions Committee of the PhD Nursing Program reviews all completed applications including all supporting documents. Applicants that meet admission criteria may be invited for an admission interview with the committee.

Faculty and principal area of expertise

  • Deborah Armstrong, Assistant Professor; PhD, University of Massachusetts Worcester; Spinal cord injury, Pathophysiology
  • Marilyn Asselin,  Associate Professor; PhD, University of Rhode Island; Reflection in practice, knowledge, utilization, leadership, reflective teaching practice, qualitative methodology
  • Maryellen Brisbois, Assistant Professor; PhD, APHN-BC, University of Massachusetts Worcester; Breast cancer among Latinas, disparities
  • Elizabeth Chin, Assistant Professor; PhD, University of Massachusetts Worcester; COPD, self-management, symptom management, qualitative methodology, learning differences
  • Kimberly Christopher, Dean, PhD, RN, BostonCollege;Quality of Life Issues related to Health and Illness, NursingEducation and Administration
  • June Andrews Horowitz, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research & Professor; PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, FAAN, New York University (PhD); family mental health, perinatal/postpartum mental health disorders—specifically postpartum depression, mother -infant interaction, neurophysiologic markers for depressed mothers and their infants, intervention research, mixed methods research
  • Susan Hunter Revell, Associate Professor; PhD, University of Rhode Island; Spinal cord injury, technology in the classroom, theory
  • Mary McCurry, DNP Graduate Program Director, Associate Professor; PhD,RNC, ANP, ACNP, Boston College; Decision making, family care givers,technology in the classroom, theory and philosophy of nursing science
  • Monika Schuler, Lecturer, PhD, RN, CNE, Northeastern University; Role development and nursing education
  • Kristen Sethares, Graduate Program Director of PhD, Professor; PhD, CNE, Boston College; Chronic cardiac illness, self care, symptom management, quantitative methodology
  • Janet Sobczak, Associate Professor; PhD, PMHNP-BC, PPCNS-BC, Medical School of Georgia; Substance addictions, Eating disorders, Trauma, Women's mental health, Sexuality Qualitative methods, Mixed methods
  • Caitlin Stover, Interim Graduate Program Director of MS, Assistant Professor; PhD, RN, PHCNS-BC, CNE, University of Massachusetts Worcester; Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender health care, community program planning and evaluation 

Faculty Research

The faculty of the College of Nursing conduct research in two broad areas—living with chronic illness and innovations in nursing education. Support for this work comes from a variety of sources:

  • The US Department of Health Education and Welfare
  • The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education
  • Professional groups and community agencies

Recently, Dr. Kristen Sethares’ work on heart failure and patient self-care was recognized when she was an invited presenter at the Chancellor’s Colloquium.

Our faculty are recognized experts and are actively involved in service projects in southeastern Massachusetts and beyond. They serve as consultants for our practice partners and professional groups. Faculty are frequently invited speakers at professional meetings and give peer-reviewed poster and podium presentations throughout the US. Many faculty volunteer for local, regional, national and international health initiatives.