Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

New Nursing Ph.D. Recommendation Rankles Some: Program Officials Argue New Requirement May Prevent Low-Income, First-Generation Minorities from Advancing in the Field

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

New Nursing Ph.D. Recommendation Rankles Some: Program Officials Argue New Requirement May Prevent Low-Income, First-Generation Minorities from Advancing in the Field

Article excerpt

In an effort to raise the standards for advanced-practice nurses--a select group who work as practitioners, midwives, specialists and anesthetists--the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has approved a policy that recommends nursing schools offer a doctorate in clinical nursing.

The recommendation comes amid concerns that advanced-practice nurses need training above and beyond the required master's degree.

Many nursing institutions are already hard at work making sure that doctoral programs in clinical nursing are available by 2015. But several schools whose current doctoral programs focus more on research say they have no plans to follow AACN's recommendation.

Advanced-practice nurses typically work with individuals who require long-term health care, such as heart or kidney transplant patients. Experts say the doctorate of nursing practice, or DNP, will eventually be a requirement for nurses who work within an advanced specialty field.

"There seems to be no end in sight for the need for highly educated nurses to take care of patients," says AACN President Jeanette Lancaster. "Many people have enormously complex health conditions, and you need people who are highly prepared in the specialty they are working in."

The new recommendation, however, has sparked controversy, particularly among those who argue that it will prevent low-income or first-generation minority professionals, who may not have the means to finance a doctoral education, from advancing in the field.

"I do think that there are class and ethnic issues, especially given the curtailment of funding for graduate education and the salary levels of nurses, whether in practice or on teaching faculties," says Dr. Nona Y. Glazer, emeritus professor of sociology at Portland State University.

Kimberly Maciorowski, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Nursing, says the recommendation may be discouraging to students who have plans of pursuing an advanced degree.

"We come from very different backgrounds and degrees," she says. "We really struggle to find a shared identity, and I don't know that this will be the best move for the profession to have one more rung on the ladder."

Meanwhile, some officials are concerned that AACN's recommendation will encourage nursing institutions to replace their existing master's programs with doctoral offerings. …

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