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School of Nursing Receives Prestigious Grant to Prepare PhD Nurses: Program aims to build the next generation of nurse leaders

Posted: May 4, 2017

Kelly Pretorius, RN, MSN and Lisa Geshell, RN, MSN

Left to Right: Kelly Pretorius, RN, MSN and Lisa Geshell, RN, MSN

AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing has selected two candidates — Lisa Geshell, RN, MSN, and Kelly Pretorius, RN, MSN — to receive a $150,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to assist them in completing their doctoral programs. They will begin the Future of Nursing Scholars program fall 2017.

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the Future of Nursing Scholars program will provide financial support, mentoring and leadership development to nurses who commit to earn their PhDs in three years. The UT Austin School of Nursing is one of only 28 schools of nursing nationwide to receive such a grant to increase the number of nurses holding doctoral degrees.

“We are honored that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation once again chose the UT Austin School of Nursing to help further nursing leadership and research by educating two new nurse scholars,” said Alexa Stuifbergen, dean of the School of Nursing. “This initiative will assist Lisa and Kelly as they develop leadership and research skills for the increasingly challenging health care landscape. We look forward to helping them navigate a rigorous curriculum and prepare to become tomorrow’s nurse leaders.”

Less than 1 percent of the nation’s more than three million nurses have PhDs in nursing or a related field. In addition, the average age at which nurses get their PhDs in the U.S. is 46 — 13 years older than PhD earners in other fields. This program will provide an incentive for nurses to start PhD programs earlier, so that they can have long leadership careers after earning their doctoral degree.

In its landmark nursing report, the Institute of Medicine recommended that the United States 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. The Future of Nursing Scholars program is intended to help address that recommendation.

“We were pleased to see that enrollment in doctorate of nursing practice programs has increased 160% from 2010 to 2014. However, we want to ensure that we also have PhD-prepared nurse leaders in faculty and research roles. In the same time period, PhD enrollment has only increased by 14.6%. The nurses funded through the Future of Nursing Scholars program will make important contributions to the field and be well-prepared to mentor other nurses,” said Susan Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, co-director of the program and RWJF’s senior adviser for nursing.

The 51 nurses supported in this round will join 109 Scholars across the three previous cohorts. This is the third year that the UT Austin School of Nursing has received the RWJF Scholar grant for two of its students. The program plans to add a fifth cohort which will bring the number of funded Scholars to more than 200 nurses.

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 to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's website.

The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing is one of the leading nursing schools in the nation, with a history of excellence in academics, research and service.

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