URI receives one of first Future of Nursing Scholars grants to support students seeking Ph.D.s

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Cumberland resident is first in R.I. to participate in program designed to double number of nurses with doctor of philosophy degrees

KINGSTON, R.I. – August 27, 2014 – The University of Rhode Island’s College of Nursing is one of only 14 nursing schools nationwide to be among the first to receive a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to increase the number of nurses holding doctor of philosophy degrees.

The Future of Nursing Scholars program, which is providing $150,000 to URI over three years, also received major support from the Rhode Island Foundation, United Health Foundation, Independence Blue Cross Foundation, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The Future of Nursing Scholars program plans to support up to 100 Ph.D. nursing candidates during its first two years.

As an inaugural grantee of the Future of Nursing Scholars program, URI’s College of Nursing has selected Pamela McCue, the chief executive officer of the Rhode Island Nurses Institute Middle College Charter School, to receive financial support, mentoring and leadership development during the three years of her doctoral program. She begins her studies in the fall. McCue receives $75,000, and the College of Nursing provides a $25,000 match in the form of a graduate assistantship. An additional scholarship will be awarded later this year.

“The most exciting part of this is you have access to so many nurse-scientists, the resources at URI, and a national network that RWJ can provide,” said McCue, a resident of Cumberland. “This is going to open new doors and opportunities for me. The knowledge that comes with a Ph.D is going to make me a better leader, and provide me with new ways to contribute to advancing the science of nursing, enhancing the profession and improving health care.”

Mary Sullivan, interim dean of URI’s College of Nursing, said such support will help students move more quickly through URI’s Ph.D. program, which is critical because numerous experts and studies have said the key factor in having enough nurses to address an impending nationwide shortage is the lack of instructors with doctorates.

“Typically, nurses enter Ph.D. programs later than other graduate students so their scholarly and scientific careers are shorter,” Sullivan said. “We have responded to this need by streamlining our program and committing to supporting our students so they finish the program.”

Sullivan said there is a pending wave of retirements among nursing faculty locally and nationally.

“We are very proud to be part of the solution that will end up benefiting Rhode Island and the wider community,” Sullivan said. “This is a commitment from URI and the Rhode Island Foundation to support this national initiative. We are putting our support and resources behind it.”

Yvette Mendez, the grants program officer for the Rhode Island Foundation’s Healthy Lives program, echoed the need for Ph.D. nurse scientists in the state.

“We are looking forward to working with the University of Rhode Island and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on the Future of Nursing program because nurses play a key leadership role in the transformation of healthcare,” Mendez said.

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, fewer than 30,000 (or 1 percent) of the nation’s more than 3 million nurses have doctoral degrees in nursing or a related field. While enrollment in doctor of nursing practice programs has risen dramatically over the past few years, enrollment in doctor of philosophy programs has been flat. In addition, the average age at which nurses get their Ph.D.s in the U.S. is 46—13 years older than those in other fields. This program will provide an incentive for nurses to start programs earlier, so that they can have long leadership careers after earning their advanced degrees.

The Robert Wood Johnson grant announcement comes on the heels of news from the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence and Veterans Healthcare naming two nurse practitioners recipients of $20,000 scholarships over a two-year period to complete their Ph.Ds at URI.

In its landmark nursing report, the Institute of Medicine recommended that the country double the number of nurses with doctorates. Doing so will support more nurse leaders, promote nurse-led science and discovery, and put more educators in place to prepare the next generation of nurses.

RWJF is working through all its programs to build a culture that enables all people to lead healthy lives, now and for generations to come.

“We cannot build a culture of health without many more highly educated nurse leaders,” said Julie Fairman, Future of Nursing Scholars program co-director. “Ph.D-prepared nurses are leaders in research, innovation, policy and education. The alumni of the Future of Nursing Scholars program will be among the nurse leaders who pioneer the groundbreaking research that provides solutions to our most pressing health problems, and they will educate thousands of nurses over the course of their careers.”

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. Click here for more information. Follow the Foundation on Twitter or on Facebook.