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December, 2018

In Nursing, D.N.Sc. Is Out and the Ph.D. Is In

By Elizabeth Debrot


     Dean Nalini Jairath
This past spring marked the first awarding of Ph.D. degrees to doctoral graduates of Catholic University’s School of Nursing. The occasion signaled the school’s transition from offering a Doctor of Nursing Science (D.N.Sc.) degree to offering a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). The reason for the change is the national emergence of the Ph.D. as the preferred research doctoral degree in nursing and the decline in the number of schools offering the D.N.Sc. degree.

When CUA’s School of Nursing began its doctoral program in 1968, it was one of the five original doctoral programs in nursing in the United States. "At that time many people outside of nursing questioned whether the scientific base of nursing supported doctoral study," says Nalini Jairath, dean of the School of Nursing. The D.N.Sc., a research-based doctorate, was introduced and gave its graduates an advantage in the health care job market. Doctoral programs in nursing have increased substantially since then, but the Ph.D. is now the preferred designation for research-based doctoral degrees, with 102 Ph.D. programs offered around the country and only a handful of D.N.Sc. programs still remaining.

“The difference between the two degrees is that the D.N.Sc. is specific to nursing but may not be familiar to individuals from other professions; the Ph.D. degree, by contrast, is universally recognized,” explains Jairath. “Even if schools have curricula that are similar, the respect and recognition given to [the names of] the degrees they grant varies. The Ph.D. designation gives our students a crucial benefit as they start their careers as researchers, teachers, etc.”

Making the transition to the Ph.D. program was easy for CUA’s School of Nursing since its D.N.Sc. program had the same curriculum and was as rigorous as the top Ph.D. programs nationally and internationally. "We looked at the standards of quality in doctoral education that have been published by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Our D.N.Sc. program met all of those standards,” says Jairath.

The equivalent nature of the two degrees enables the school to reclassify any previously awarded D.N.Sc. degrees to Ph.D. degrees and do justice to CUA graduates, Jairath says. “Since implementing this change, I have received notes and letters from alumni indicating that they are deeply appreciative of the change and that it will enhance their career opportunities,” she says. “The current students were also highly supportive. Every student who was eligible to receive either the Ph.D. or the D.N.Sc. during our transition period has opted to receive the Ph.D.”

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Last Revised 30-Oct-06 04:29 PM.