New Doctoral Program Aims to Prepare Nursing Researchers

7 PhD students standing for photo in front of GW Nursing branded wall
11/13/2019 13:25

Nurses comprise the largest group of health care providers in the country, so discoveries made in nursing science can have a large-scale impact on the quality of patient care, said Kathleen Griffith, Ph.D., M.P.H., CRNP-F.

As the assistant dean for GW Nursing’s new Ph.D. program, Dr.  Griffith and other Ph.D. program faculty will help prepare nurses for futures in nursing research and, ultimately, to improve health care delivery.

“Among health care professionals, nurses also spend the most time with patients and are uniquely prepared to conduct scientific inquiry around clinical care, nurse-driven policy change and educational innovations that will prepare our professionals to improve patient outcomes,” she said. “Throughout my own training, I’ve seen that discoveries made by nurses in the symptom management of chronic disease are often very effective because they are the constant observers of the phenomenon and understand its natural history.”

GW Nursing already offers degrees at several levels: bachelor’s, master’s and doctor of nursing practice (D.N.P.).

“GW has been a long-time contributor to the doctoral education of nurses through our D.N.P. and other health science degrees,” Dean Pamela Jeffries said. “Now we’re offering students another avenue through which they can contribute to the profession of nursing.”

Annalyn Velasquez is a neonatal nurse practitioner who practices in Florida and is an adjunct faculty member at Florida International University's School of Nursing. While Ms. Velazquez enjoys teaching B.S.N. students in the clinical setting, she hopes to assume a larger faculty role after graduation.

Working in the neonatal intensive care unit, “I see gaps in what we know about neonatal abstinence syndrome babies, a syndrome associated with opioid use by mothers, and their long-term care. I’d like to pursue research in that area,” said Ms. Velasquez, who started her Ph.D. coursework at GW Nursing this fall. 

GW Nursing leadership intends to set up a collaboration between its new Ph.D. program and the existing D.N.P. program through shared academic coursework and other experiences. Program leaders hope the collaboration will encourage post-graduation partnerships and guarantee the highest quality care for patients. 

“There’s a necessary professional interdependence between nurses with D.N.P.-focused preparation and those who implement discovery research,” said Dr. Griffith, who works closely with a D.N.P.-prepared colleague in her own research that focuses on improving pain outcomes for patients with cancer.