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College of Nursing receives grant to prepare doctoral degree nurses

Staff Reports

The College of Nursing is one of only 14 nursing programs nationwide to be among the first to receive a grant from a new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program aimed at increasing the number of Ph.D. prepared nurses.

The Future of Nursing Scholars program is a multi-funder initiative. In addition to RWJF, United Health Foundation, Independence Blue Cross Foundation, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and the Rhode Island Foundation are supporting the program which plans to support up to 100 Ph.D. nursing candidates over its first two years.

“We are thrilled to receive this funding. This support for our Ph.D. students clearly reflects on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s commitment to a well-educated nursing workforce,” said Gail Stuart, Ph.D., R.N., dean of the College of Nursing.

The college recently selected Desiree R. Bertrand, R.N., to receive the inaugural grant. As such, she will receive financial support, mentoring and leadership development over the three years of her Ph.D. program.

Bertrand, a resident of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, will begin her Ph.D. studies online this fall. She is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and served as a commissioned officer and registered nurse for four years. After completing her military commitment, Bertrand worked as a travel nurse for several years.

In 2003, she took a position with the University of the Virgin Islands as an assistant professor of nursing. Today, Bertrand is a research coordinator and the community engagement and outreach core director at the Caribbean Exploratory Research Center housed in the UVI School of Nursing.

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

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 Ph.D. programs has been flat. In addition, the average age at which nurses get their Ph.D. degrees in the U.S. is 46, which is 13 years older than Ph.D. earners in other fields. This program will provide an incentive for nurses to start Ph.D. programs earlier, so that they can have long leadership careers after earning their Ph.D.’s.

“This is a crucial and ambitious endeavor,” said Susan Hassmiller, Ph.D., R.N., co–director of the program and RWJF’s senior adviser for nursing. “It’s one that everyone in our country should be engaged in and that’s why the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is inviting other funders to participate in this effort. We believe that working together, we can ensure that we are able to educate the Ph.D.-prepared nurse leaders we need to shape the future of health care education, research and policy.”

For information, visit MUSC's College of Nursing's website,

August 1, 2014



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