Friday, November 23, 2007

The Preparation of Nurse Faculty: Who Should Teach Students?

The Preparation of Nurse Faculty: Who Should Teach Students?

Jean B. Ivey, DSN, CRNP

History of Nursing Doctoral Education

The preferred level of preparation for nursing faculty is the doctoral level. Doctor of philosophy (PhD) programs predominate in nursing, and -- recently -- the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) has been supported for nurses who wish to focus on clinical practice, rather than research. What preparation do these programs provide for teaching undergraduate and graduate students? What qualifications should faculty possess? Is a recent graduate of a typical PhD program prepared to develop a curriculum, plan classroom and online classes, write exam questions, plan clinical practice experiences, and evaluate student performance?

A historical review of the development of doctoral education in nursing is beyond the scope of this article, but it is important to note that its foundations were in the education doctorate (EdD). This preparation route might not have fostered research into nursing phenomena and nursing issues, but it did prepare educators who could write curricula, develop effective teaching strategies, and evaluate student learning skillfully.

The development of doctoral programs in nursing then took divergent paths into the doctor of nursing (DNS), the doctor of nursing science (DNSc), the nursing doctor (ND), and the doctor of science in nursing (DSN). These degrees were said to be more clinically focused, hence more concerned with nursing issues and nursing practice. Curricula included nursing theory and strong research and statistics components. Later options to focus on clinical practice, administration, and education were added as role tracks.

The PhD was developed to prepare nurse researchers and nurse leaders needed by the profession. Statistics, research design, theory development, informatics, health policy, and outcomes measurement were emphasized. The addition of content on qualitative methods, consideration of the context of phenomena, and appropriate measures for these designs were significant in the development of nursing research. These programs were initially conceived as built on the foundation of a traditional master's degree program, which frequently included some "education" courses.

However, many master's degree programs converted rapidly from curricula that boasted several options into nurse practitioner (NP) programs. Both the administration and education options were downplayed, if not completely dropped, as the demand for NP programs increased. At the same time, administration and education majors were no longer emphasized and were seen as less essential to PhD students because of their research focus. NP programs were focused on clinical practice, with fewer hours and emphasis on theory and research.

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