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Theme and Description

The PhD Program in Nursing will prepare nurse scientists to conduct nursing research in the broad area of Trajectories of Chronic Illness and Care Systems. Graduates will assume roles primarily in academic and research settings. Our approach is to admit a small number of highly qualified applicants so that every student will work closely with one or more faculty members in a series of mentored experiences, supported by formal course work, to:

  • ensure socialization to the role of research scientist;
  • ensure significant knowledge and skill acquisition for launching a successful program of independent research post doctorate; and
  • prepare for an entry level role in an academic setting.

The program requires a minimum of 47 credit hours of graduate course work (post-MSN) prior to a dissertation. Students will work on active research projects, and it is expected that most will graduate with a record of publication. Course work is structured with a substantive core (36 credits) of nursing science and research methods to be taken in the School of Nursing. This core will be expanded with elected statistics, research methods, and minor area courses (9 credits) to be taken mainly outside of nursing in other Duke University departments. Additional requirements include a 1-credit research practica, and a 1-credit teaching practicum.

In addition to course work, the PhD Program in Nursing will require each student to develop a scholarly portfolio, complete a preliminary examination, and the dissertation.

PhD students will be fully supported for a minimum of five consecutive years, beginning with their year of matriculation.  Graduate students are supported in a variety of ways. While financial commitments are made to students for 5 years, all students are expected to make a good faith effort to obtain external support.

The Graduate School establishes a recommended minimum stipend level each year for the different schools in order to maintain the competitiveness of its graduate awards relative to peer institutions. For more information and further details, consult the Duke University School of Nursing PhD Program web page.

Terminal Objectives

At the completion of the PhD Program in Nursing, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate expertise on trajectories of chronic illness and care systems, and the intersection between these, as applied to a specific population (e.g., age, gender, ethnic or specific illness groups).
  2. Contribute to the development of conceptual models and theories about trajectories of chronic illness, care systems and their intersection, which reflect synthesis of knowledge from nursing and other disciplines.
  3. Evaluate and synthesize research conducted in nursing and related disciplines.
  4. Demonstrate scientific integrity in designing and conducting nursing research using appropriate methods and analysis techniques, especially longitudinal methods.
  5. Conduct interdisciplinary research addressing trajectories of chronic illness, care systems, and the intersection between these, using culturally competent approaches.
  6. Disseminate research findings to advance the evidence-base for practice in nursing and health care, particularly addressing trajectories of chronic illness and care systems.


The goal of the PhD Program in Nursing is to prepare nurse scholars who will build nursing science by leading interdisciplinary research initiatives targeting the interface between chronic illness and care systems. The purpose of these initiatives will be to better understand, develop, and test innovative interventions, and to translate research into practice. The PhD Program builds on the foundational knowledge and expertise acquired in BSN education and on the advanced substantive and expert knowledge gained in MSN education to develop nurse scientists who will contribute significant new knowledge related to chronic illness and care systems.To that end, the Program provides the student with:

  • a broad perspective on philosophy of science and its application to solving challenging health problems facing our nation, particularly those related to chronic illness and care systems;
  • experience with common and emerging research design and methods;
  • rigorous training in statistics; and
  • mentored research and teaching experiences to reinforce knowledge acquisition and skill development.

In addition to addressing the standards of Duke University, to further ensure the highest-quality PhD education,the PhD Program in Nursing is designed to meet the indicators of quality in research-focused doctoral programs set forth by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

PhD Program in Nursing Administration, Staff and Faculty

Program Director

The Program Director for the PhD Program in Nursing provides primary leadership to School of Nursing faculty in developing, implementing, and evaluating the program. The Director, in collaboration with the PhD Program Faculty and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (ADAA), is responsible and accountable for the overall academic integrity of the PhD Program in Nursing, coordinates student and faculty activities within the program and, in conjunction with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs oversees submission and management of training grants, and with the Associate Dean for Research Affairs oversees PhD student applications for internal and external funding. The Director serves as the initial advisor of all matriculating first-year graduate students and advocates for graduate students and the needs of the graduate program both within the School and in the University.

As the primary representative of the PhD Program in Nursing both within and beyond the School of Nursing, the Director is designated as the Director of Graduate Studies for the PhD Program in Nursing at Duke, and reports to the Dean of the Graduate School for responsibilities and activities related to the program as outlined in the Duke University Graduate School Bulletin, as well as to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (ADAA) in the School of Nursing for program leadership within the School.

Program Coordinator

The PhD Program in Nursing Coordinator handles PhD applicant inquiries, admissions procedures, graduate student registration, monthly payments for fellowships and teaching, and assists PhD students in scheduling Preliminary exams and the Final Dissertation Defense. The Program Coordinator works closely with the Doctoral Program Director to direct the day-to-day functioning of the PhD Program Office.