Nurses play a central role in nearly all forms of direct health care. From alleviating pain, discomfort and the symptoms of illness to administering medication and monitoring blood and oxygen levels, the American medical system could not function without an army of dedicated and highly skilled nurses. While almost every nurse entered the profession in order to provide direct care, over time some nurses develop an interest in other, equally essential, work.
While a nursing Ph.D. isn’t a widely held degree, the men and women who earn it make up much of the educational, managerial and researching backbone of the nursing profession. Especially for nurses who seek to understand more about medicine and their role in it, nurses with Ph.D.s are afforded remarkable opportunities to advance the nursing profession, which benefits patients, nurses and other direct care providers. Here are five essential jobs nursing Ph.D.s take on that keep the medical world turning.
One of the most important roles a nurse Ph.D. can fill is being a researcher. From improving care to influencing hospital administrators and legislation, nurses who take the time to earn their Ph.D. can gather the hard facts about how hospitals, technology and staffing trends are affecting the field of nursing and patient care. As such, nursing research can make a major difference in how people are treated. Nurse researchers have on-the-ground experience with direct patient care. As such, they are intimately connected to the concerns affecting nurses and patients most, like how nurse-to-patient ratios affect patient outcomes and mortality — data originally gathered by a nurse Ph.D.
Every new generation of nurses needs a medically thorough and clinically sound education, and without nurse educators to provide them with that solid education, health care would suffer. Most nurse educator faculty positions require a Ph.D., and there are simply not enough nurses to fill the openings. With the need for new nurses expected to top 1.2 million by 2020, nurse educators are in increasingly high demand. In recent years, as many as 79,000 qualified nursing school applicants were turned away because of faculty shortages. Currently, there are more than 1,500 faculty positions open for nurse educators.
In addition to educating future nurses, the need for nurses to share information can be filled through writing. Some nurses want to communicate what they know, but it can be difficult to find that opportunity. Nursing Ph.D.s can publish their writing more easily with the added expertise and accreditation granted by a terminal degree. From online articles to memoirs and care guides, having a Ph.D. will open up doors for nurses who want to write.
Clinical Services Director
An administrator who oversees all the patient care in a health care facility, a clinical services director is also the go-between for each department’s manager in a care facility and the care facility’s upper management. While a clinical services director is not involved in direct care, her past experience with direct care is vital. Understanding the work of each department, as well as the struggles and goals of staff members, will help her improve patient care and but creates a more empathetic working environment for care providers. Nursing Ph.D.s bring a perspective to this job that allows them to more effectively deal with efficiency needs and changes within departments to improve patient care.
A nursing manager oversees the nursing staff at a care facility or hospital. In addition to hiring and training new nurses, nursing managers also tend to supervisory, management and evaluative duties regarding the nurses under their charge. They are the liaison between the nurses and administrators at the care facility, and they are often responsible for maintaining aspects of the budget. While a nursing manager rarely provides direct patient care, he is still essential in making sure the patient care offered at his hospital is in good order.
Without nurses, there is no good medical care. From the role of educator and researcher to manager and author, nursing Ph.D.s keep the world of nursing alive and in order so patient care and the field of nursing itself can continue to improve.