Wednesday, August 12, 2009

First Ph.D. in Nursing Students Coming to Mercer’s Atlanta Campus

The first six candidates in the Georgia Baptist College of Nursing’s new Ph.D. in nursing program will come to campus for the first time as a group on Thursday and Friday, Aug. 13-14, for a computer training and orientation. The dynamic new program at Mercer University will feature a distance-learning delivery method for much of the coursework, allowing the students to continue in their positions as nurses and nursing educators. The program is only the fourth Ph.D. in nursing to be offered in Georgia, which is facing a critical shortage of nurse educators.

The students in the program will meet at the campus several times per semester and will also work remotely in virtual classrooms and via specialized Internet-based educational software. The inaugural class for the Doctor of Philosophy in nursing program brings together nurses from out of state, as well as those from more rural areas of the state.

“We had to design the program around the needs of working educators and nurses, because the nursing and nurse educator shortages in this area are so great our program had to be flexible enough to allow the students to remain at their jobs,” said Dr. Linda A. Streit, interim dean and associate dean for graduate programs at Georgia Baptist. “The students will have two days on campus for orientation and training to prepare for the coming semester.”

The program is designed to be done in a hybrid format and completed in 24 months, depending on the length of time taken on dissertation research. The program will create high-performing nursing educators and researchers to address the urgent need for nursing educators and leaders.

The program will prepare its graduates to:
• address the pressing need for advanced expertise in the application of theories and conceptual models to nursing education, practice and research;
• conduct research that advances nursing knowledge;
• evaluate the influences of ethical, social, political, demographic and economic issues on health care and nursing;
• assume leadership roles in education, practice and research to improve health care.

Dr. Streit also worked to secure grant funding to support students in the program through the Nurse Faculty Loan Program, a federal program designed to increase the number of nursing students pursuing careers as full-time faculty in schools of nursing. Funds from the program are administered by the Bureau of Health Professions, Health Resources and Service Administration.

The loan program offers significant loan forgiveness to students in master’s and doctoral nursing programs who train for, and become, full-time as faculty in nursing programs upon graduation. The new Ph.D. in nursing program was tailored to meet the needs of students pursuing this program, Dr. Streit said.

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