PhD Program

The PhD Program in Nursing will prepare nurse scientists to conduct nursing research in the broad area of trajectories of chronic illness and care systems. Graduates will assume roles in academic, research, or industry settings. Our approach is to admit a small number of highly qualified applicants so that every student will work closely with one or more faculty members in a series of mentored experiences, supported by formal coursework, to:

  • ensure socialization to the role of research scientist;

  • ensure significant knowledge and skill acquisition for launching a successful program of independent research post doctorate; and

  • prepare for an entry level role in an academic setting.

The program requires a minimum of 52 credit hours of graduate coursework (post-MSN) prior to a dissertation. Students will work on active research projects, and it is expected that most will graduate with a record of publication. Coursework is structured with a substantial core (31 credit hours) of nursing science and research methods to be taken in the School of Nursing. This core will be expanded with elected statistics, research methods, and minor area courses (15 credit hours) to be taken mainly outside of nursing in other Duke University departments. Additional requirements include a one-credit research practicum and five -credits towards a Certificate in Nursing Education.

In addition to coursework and a dissertation, the PhD Program in Nursing will require each student to develop a scholarly portfolio. Each student must pass a preliminary (admission to PhD candidacy) exam by the end of the spring semester of the third year. The formal requirement is the presentation of a dissertation. Students will be expected to complete the program in four to five years. It is the expectation of The Graduate School that PhD students will be fully supported for a minimum of five consecutive years, beginning with their year of matriculation. Graduate students are supported in a variety of ways. While financial commitments are made to students for a set number of years, we expect all students to make a good faith effort to obtain external support at some point during their funding period, and students are encouraged to pursue these opportunities. Currently all students in the Duke University School of Nursing PhD Program are guaranteed 12-months funding for 5 years. Students are also required to engage in fellowship service throughout their program as long as they do not receive external funding to support their tuition and/or stipend. However, most students engage in non-paid fellowship hours even with funding. Fellowship hours include teaching, research and leadership/service activities that not only provide a significant contribution to the school, but also support the professional development of each student. The goal of the fellowship experience is to expand a student’s engagement in activities that support their development as a nurse scientist and academician while being full members of the Duke University School of Nursing community.

PhD Program in Nursing Outcomes

At the completion of the PhD Program in Nursing, students will be able to:

  • demonstrate expertise on trajectories of chronic illness and care systems, and the intersection between these, as applied to a specific population (e.g., age, gender, ethnic or specific illness groups);

  • contribute to the development of conceptual models and theories about trajectories of chronic illness, care systems and their intersection, which reflect synthesis of knowledge from nursing and other disciplines;

  • evaluate and synthesize research conducted in nursing and related disciplines;

  • demonstrate scientific integrity in designing and conducting nursing research using appropriate methods and analysis techniques, especially longitudinal methods;

  • conduct interdisciplinary research addressing trajectories of chronic illness, care systems, and the intersection between these, using culturally competent approaches; and

  • disseminate research findings to advance the evidence base for practice in nursing and health care, particularly addressing trajectories of chronic illness and care systems.

For information about the PhD Program in Nursing and curriculum details, consult the PhD Program section of the Duke University School of Nursing website. Prospective students can also contact the PhD Program coordinator at or (919) 664-8456.

Degree requirements of the PhD Progam in Nursing is available in the Duke University Graduate School Bulletin at