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Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science

The Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science program is designed to educate nurse scientists. Applicants are admitted to the College of Graduate Health Sciences (CGHS) upon recommendation by the nursing faculty. Students have the opportunity to learn and network with CGHS students from other disciplines while enrolled in biostatistics, health policy, and medical ethics courses in addition to their nursing course work.

Students work closely throughout their program of study with a faculty mentor with whom they share a common research interest. The two main areas of faculty research concentration are bio-behavioral interactions and interventions, and improving patient outcomes.

The mission of the PhD Program in Nursing Science is to prepare nursing scientists and scholars for collaborative and socially responsible inquiry that improves and promotes health today and for the future. This is achieved through an educational program that emphasizes (1) developing and testing theories and models of nursing care; (2) clinical and biological nursing research; and (3) social, ethical, political, legal, and economic implications of health care policies and practices.

PhD Program Outcomes

  1. Analyze, test, refine, extend and expand the theoretical basis of nursing practice;
  2. Conduct and disseminate research that generates and advances nursing as a discipline;
  3. Provide leadership as nurse researchers, educators, and/or administrators in current and emerging health care settings;
  4. Collaborate with members of other disciplines in health related research of mutual concern; and
  5. Analyze, develop, and recommend health care policy at various levels.

PhD and Dual DNP/PhD Programs FAQ

Which program is right for me?
  • The PhD degree (with a focus in nursing) prepares nurse scientists who contribute to the development of scientific knowledge.
  • The DNP program prepares nurses for the practice degree in nursing. Options include: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Family Nursing, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing, Nurse Anesthesia, Primary Pediatric Nursing, Acute Pediatric Nursing, and Neonatal Nursing. Dual options include: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care/Family Nursing; Psychiatric Mental Health/Family Nursing.
  • The dual DNP/PhD program provides highly motivated and qualified students with an integrated advanced clinical and research program of study. Students focus on a clinical research area in the PhD program and a clinical specialty area in the DNP program.
  • The combined program: 1) reduces the time normally required to complete both degrees and 2) yields expert practice leaders who can contribute to the development of scientific knowledge.


What are the PhD admissions requirements?
  • Application materials must be submitted by February 1st.
  • Be prepared to have identified three individuals who will provide written references on letterhead addressing your research capabilities.
  • Write an essay on your research and clinical interests and why you are seeking to attain a PhD.
  • In the essay, you will address potential issues: poor grades one term/course, switching schools, gaps in employment.
What is the application process?
  • Applications materials are submitted through NursingCAS.
  • Additional packet components include:
      1. Official transcripts (must use NursingCAS transcript form)
      2. Official test scores (GRE)
      3. A proposed plan of study (if you have not yet completed all pre-professional courses)
      4. Copy of unencumbered RN license (scan/upload into NursingCAS)
      5. Current CPR card (scan/upload into NursingCAS)
  • If accepted for admission, UTHSC will require official transcripts also be sent to the Office of Enrollment Services.
  • Applicants must obtain transcripts from every institution to enter courses AND request transcripts for NursingCAS to verify coursework.
  • If applying to the dual DNP/PhD program, must be accepted first into the DNP program concentration (e.g., family nursing, pediatric nursing, psych-mental health nursing).
  • You may be accepted into DNP but not PhD.
  • If not accepted into DNP program, can request application be considered for PhD program.
  • Consider personally contacting DNP concentration coordinator and PhD program director before applying to the dual program.
How many students are accepted each year?
  • 4-8 students are accepted yearly, based on match and availability of faculty advisor.
  • Each advisor maximum of 3-5 students mentored throughout program.
  • Number of students in the Nursing Science PhD Program ranges from 15 to 18 students per academic year.
How long can be expected before graduation?
  • PhD students can be full or part-time.
      1. Majority graduate in < 4 years
      2. MSN prepared: 3 year curriculum
      3. BSN prepared: 3.5-4 year curriculum
  • DNP/PhD students can be full or part-time.
      1. Reduces time to complete both programs separately by ½ to 1 year (1-2 terms)
      2. Students entering with post-BSN and post-MSN have varying sequence of courses
How much time will be spent on campus?
  • Throughout program: on-campus week beginning and end of term (DNP, PhD, DNP/PhD programs).
  • PhD courses: courses in first two terms meet Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays face to face of each week or every other week; distance technology available for Thursday class.
  • Research can be conducted in Memphis or other location.
  • DNP advanced practice clinical/selective experiences in proximity where student resides.
What are the expectations with regards to graduation?
  • Candidacy exam after core PhD courses completed (3rd or 4th term)
  • Presentations and publications on literature reviews, pilot studies
  • Dissertation proposal
  • Dissertation research (24 credits)
  • Dissertation defense (final exam)
  • Advanced practice credentialing exam (DNP/PhD graduates)
Are there RA/TA opportunities?
  • Tuition waived for 6-8 hours of service weekly
  • RA/TA duties on a non-class day
  • Examples of RA activities:
      1. recruit/participate research of faculty
      2. data entry
      3. literature reviews
      4. developing posters, abstracts, presentations assist with on-line or face-to-face course

Last Published: Sep 26, 2018