The Impact of PhD Nursing Research on Healthcare

As the role of nurses has grown over the years, more and more of these professionals have sought to earn PhDs. Although the number who have attained this qualification is still low, the trend is encouraging; there is increasing enrollment in PhD. programs every year. 

PhDs, in whatever discipline, are one of the highest levels of learning. Students immerse themselves i/n their chosen subject for several years and, at the end of the course, write a dissertation to demonstrate how familiar they are with their chosen topic. For nurses, it is a way to transition from conventional nursing and move into areas like policymaking and education.


Why a PhD in nursing?

One of the main reasons nurses enroll in a PhD in nursing online, like the one offered at Wilkes University, is to pursue a research career. The course at Wilkes is entirely online, providing more flexibility than a traditional PhD. It covers the philosophy of science, healthcare issues and policies, quantitative research and analysis, measurement and data collection, and the research process. To complete the course, students need to attend a dissertation seminar and complete a dissertation. By the time students graduate, they are equipped to explore scientific and ethical theories, consider specific issues related to nursing education and patient care, and understand research principles well. 

Students also learn how to use inquiry for discovery and innovation, and they can use different research methodologies to tackle the issues that affect patient care. A PhD. in nursing is for those who want to climb the ladder, leave behind everyday nursing duties, and focus on policymaking, healthcare education, and research. 

Research plays a critical role in nursing education and innovation within the field. Only through research does nursing improve patient care and bring innovations that take the industry to new heights. 

Before we look at the impact of PhD nursing research, let us explore the key research domains in nursing.  


PhD research topics in nursing

Every student who enrolls in a PhD in nursing is expected to write a research paper to demonstrate their skills and understanding of their chosen topic. As nurses choose research topics, they must consider those that give them ample room for research. This allows for richer dissertations, and students can hone their research skills due to the extensive material they have to explore.

Students should evaluate whether the topic they choose is manageable; if one chooses a notoriously difficult topic, they will have a hard time conceptualizing their ideas, which will affect their final dissertation. The chosen topic should be relevant, exploratory, and interesting and it should tackle an issue that is a concern among practitioners within the industry. There are numerous research topics that PhD nursing students can choose from, and they also vary from one institution to the next. However, some are common across most nursing schools, and anyone who enrolls for a PhD can expect to encounter them during their studies, such as:


Medical-surgical nursing

This is one of the most chosen topics among PhD nursing students because it explores the most fundamental issue in the nursing profession: the provision of patient care. It covers areas like how bedside care influences patient outcomes, how nurses help patients manage post-operative pain, how nurse-patient ratios affect patient outcomes, patient education and communication and how it affects patient satisfaction.

This is a great domain for a PhD dissertation because it covers issues that nurses confront regularly in their work. It is also ideal because it is easy to research either by directly observing and recording in a healthcare environment, or by examining material that has been collected by other scholars and researchers in the field.


Pediatric nursing

Pediatrics has come a long way in the last few decades and much of the progress can be attributed to strides made because of research by PhD students. Those who choose to do their dissertation in this field can focus on areas such as family-centered care for children with chronic illnesses, the development and behavior of pediatric patients, how to reduce anxiety and pain in hospitalized children, managing cancer pain in young patients and parental involvement and how it affects postoperative outcomes.


Obstetrics and gynecological nursing

This relates to women’s health, prenatal and postnatal care, sexual and reproductive health, the impact of midwifery on birth, childbirth education and lactation, especially for first-time mothers.


ICU nursing

The number of Americans with chronic illnesses has risen in recent decades and with it so has the number of ICU admissions. Nurses are the primary caregivers in intensive care units, and research into this field has led to many advancements and better patient outcomes.

PhD research in this area covers topics such as how nursing interventions influence patient outcomes, palliative and end-of-life care, family presence and how it influences patient outcomes, pain and trauma management and communication.


Mental health nursing

Mental health has come to the forefront in recent years with good reason as a significant proportion of the American population has been diagnosed with mental health difficulties.

Nursing PhD students can choose this as their area of focus, with potential topics such as nurse-led therapy for children and adolescents, group interventions, mindfulness and how it affects mental health, patient education and how it affects outcomes, and how nurse-patient alliances affect mental health.


Geriatric care, health and wellness

A significant proportion of the American population is now elderly, and many suffer from chronic conditions that need careful care and management. This is a broad area from which students can choose various topics to focus on, including care for elders with chronic illnesses, home care, mental health and wellness, and end-of-life transitions.

Some PhD students focus on community nursing, which includes numerous topics that they can write their dissertation on.

These are just some of the research domains in nursing; there are many more, and it is up to the student to choose one that they feel offers them enough material to research and will provide the basis for a good dissertation.


How does PhD nursing research influence advancements in patient care?

PhD research is an important tool in healthcare for many reasons. Research is the way we explore problems and find solutions. In healthcare, it is all about improving patient outcomes, which is why it is a vital part of doctorate studies. Below are some of the advantages that PhD nursing research provides:


Helps improve nursing standards

American nurses hold themselves to high standards, but this doesn’t mean that they cannot improve. By continually researching nursing and patient outcomes, nurses can use information found during research to improve healthcare and deliver better patient outcomes.

Many of the standards that are employed by nurses today came about because students researched and talked to patients and nurses and other professionals in the industry. Based on the information they gathered, they made recommendations about how to improve patient outcomes with improved care delivery guidelines.


Research helps improve nursing education

Information that nursing students glean while writing their dissertations can be used to improve curriculums so that by the time nursing students qualify, they have the skills that are needed in their industry. Many nurses who obtain PhDs become nurse educators, and they can impart important knowledge learned during their dissertations to students.

Today’s average nurse is much better educated than one who practiced 30 or 40 years ago, and much of what they know comes from research conducted during PhD studies. 


Highlights important issues

One of the most important roles of research at the PhD level is to shine a light on issues that may otherwise be overlooked. In every profession, there will be areas that are passed over, either because industry leaders aren’t aware of what is happening on the ground or because they don’t think it is important. 

For any nursing PhD student, this is a great place to find topics to base their research on. They can talk to fellow nurses to find out about problems that they face as they deliver patient care. They can also talk to patients to find out what they feel needs attention and how they think it will affect the outcome of treatment and care. 


Investigates different methods of healthcare delivery

What works best when it comes to caring for a patient with a certain chronic illness? Which approach is most effective when caring for patients with a certain mental illness? How can nurses and midwives minimize risk to babies at delivery?

These are the sorts of questions that can be answered through research by nursing PhD students, and their overall aim is to improve the quality of healthcare and patient outcomes. Talking to various practitioners and patients helps outline the problems that they face, and the more data students gather the better the outcome of their research. They can provide useful insights into how doctors, nurses and other medical professionals can deliver a higher level of patient care and how it affects outcomes. 


Leads to innovation

Research is the cornerstone of innovation. It highlights problems and provides a clear path that can be followed to develop solutions. The last few decades have included numerous innovations in healthcare delivery. Patient-centered care, for example, has become the norm in healthcare institutions. 

Doctors and nurses no longer make decisions on behalf of the patient without their input. They actively seek out the patient’s opinion, and as they design a treatment plan, they make sure that it is taken into consideration. 

There have been innovations in pain management for cancer and post-op patients, childbirth and childcare, elder care, obesity management and mental health management. Many of the protocols that were used by nurses 30 years ago are no longer in use today because research has led to innovation and better ways of doing things. 

Innovation has also given nurses a bigger role to play in patient treatment and care. As recently as 20 years ago, nurses were relegated to basic patient care, but today, many are taught to diagnose and treat disease as they deliver patient-centered care.  


Provides in-depth information on various topics

The more one knows about an issue, the better one can contribute to discussions and innovations to help solve the problems that surround it. PhD research allows students to absorb themselves in their given topic, learn all about it, and become masters in their field. Their knowledge can be used to develop new and better practices, but it can also be passed on to nursing students through improved and in-depth curriculums. 

It is for this reason that PhD nursing students are encouraged to choose research topics that they are genuinely interested in. If they are passionate about the topic they are exploring, they will do more than just basic research, and their dissertations can be the basis for innovations in healthcare. 


Helps update current practice

Nursing practice has existed for centuries, but it didn’t change very much before the 20th century. Patients were treated as they always had been the doctor made a diagnosis and issued a treatment plan, and the nurse cleaned up and cared for the patient. 

This is no longer standard practice, and many nurses now play an expanded role in patient care. The changes have come about because of the extensive research into the role of nurses in healthcare and research into how they can play a bigger part in caring for patients.


Examines issues that nurses face every day

In recent years, much has come to the forefront about nurse burnout and other issues that these professionals face in the workplace. This has only been enabled by extensive research into the working lives of nurses and what can be done to ensure that they have what they need to be effective healthcare providers.



PhD research in nursing plays a significant role in helping move the profession forward. Those who choose to pursue this advanced degree must be prepared to do extensive research into their chosen topic of focus, keeping in mind that their findings may lead to innovations in the industry.


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