Expanding approaches to recruiting nurse-prepared scientists

Dean's Blog |
Judith Karshmer

The demand for nurse researchers has never been more acute. Enrollment in nursing PhD programs continues to remain flat. The success of DNP programs in using innovative approaches to program delivery has made a significant contribution to the profession in preparing nurses for APRN roles, leadership and educational careers.

Although many PhD programs have made real changes to their delivery format and milestone targets, these modifications have not produced the increase in student interest or an increased graduation rate that is essential to advance the profession.  

At Arizona State University, we have launched a novel approach to preparing and recruiting nurse scientists for successful research-focused careers in the form of a “clinical” post-doctoral fellowship. Upon completion of their post-doctoral research fellowship, PhD prepared scientists who are pursuing academic careers in health-related fields and interested in nursing, may apply for the fellowship, a 19-month program during which the candidate is enrolled in our masters’ entry professional nursing program to prepare as a nurse, and upon graduation, move directly into a tenure-track position in the college.

Our first clinical post-doc is currently in her first semester, and I look forward to updating you on her journey and the lessons we are able to glean from this process! We are excited to add this unique approach to our strategy to help build the community of nurse scholars.

Below I'm sharing some additional best practices that have made a difference in our efforts.

Embrace Diversity and Inclusion

Another effective way to attract nurse researchers is to actively embrace diversity and inclusion in recruitment efforts. This involves reaching out to underrepresented communities and those with diverse perspectives and experiences. By fostering an inclusive environment, universities can attract a wider pool of talent and ensure that nurse scientists from all walks of life feel welcomed and supported. At ASU we have been able to offer “Presidential Post-Doctoral Fellowships” to nurse-prepared scientists whose work focuses on underrepresented minorities. Upon completion of this fellowship the candidate is eligible and prepared for appointment into a tenure-track position.

Collaborate with Health Care Organizations

By forging partnerships with hospitals, clinics and other health care institutions, ASU is tapping into a network of experienced nurses who may be interested in pursuing research careers. Pre-doctoral scholarships, jointly funded by the health system and the college, provide the financial support. It also provides the relationship that directs the research focus of the PhD student to priority initiatives of the hospital or clinic, providing the infrastructure for use-inspired research. These partnerships facilitate knowledge exchange, promote interdisciplinary collaboration, and create pathways for nurses to create and maintain joint appointments in practice and the academy.

Provide Mentorship and Professional Development Opportunities

Mentorship and professional development are key factors that influence the career decisions of nurse researchers. At ASU we have in place a robust mentorship program and opportunities for professional growth and advancement. We have been able to provide the support to nursing faculty who are in a clinical track with limited expectation for research that enables them to move into tenure-teaching positions. By pairing incoming nurse scientists with experienced mentors and providing access to resources such as grants, conferences, and workshops, universities can nurture talent and cultivate a vibrant research community.

Recruiting nurse researchers, nurse scientists and clinical post-docs requires creativity, innovation and a commitment to inclusivity. It’s well worth the effort so we can advance health care practices, improve patient outcomes and make meaningful contributions to nursing science.