Newswise — Welcome to AACN’s 50th anniversary year!  Since 1969, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has been the nation’s leading advocate for baccalaureate and graduate nursing education. Our founders clearly recognized the strong connection between having a well-educated nursing workforce and the ability to provide high quality patient care. This guiding philosophy is alive today in our member deans, faculty, and students who are the core of AACN’s strength and essential partners in our work to improve health and health care on a national scale. 

Heading into the new year, one of our top priorities is to ensure steady enrollment in all baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral level nursing programs. Within this universe, one area of great concern is sustaining interest in the PhD in nursing, as these programs supply our future faculty, researchers, and leaders. As you likely know, enrollments in PhD programs have declined each year from 2013 through 2017. On a brighter note, preliminary data from AACN’s 2018 annual survey show that enrollment in PhD programs is up 1%, which hopefully marks the end of the downward trend. Even with this welcome news, more must be done to ensure that we are graduating enough nurses from our PhD programs to meet workforce needs (inset graph showing PhD enrollments).

At AACN’s Doctoral Education Conference held earlier this month in San Diego, hundreds of research directors and faculty for our nation’s PhD programs came together to explore pipeline challenges, including a deep dive into this issue at the PhD Preconference held on January 23.  Following a robust day of dialogue and solutions sharing, major themes emerged, including the need to highlight the value proposition for pursuing the PhD, variations in educational experiences across research-focused programs, the roles faculty play as mentors and advocates for nursing science, the benefits of exposing baccalaureate students to the joys of nursing research and discovery early in their professional formation, and the need to celebrate and elevate the impact nursing scientists have on health care.

Based on the discussion at this convening and the most recent meeting of the Board of Directors, AACN has identified four priority areas for action:

  • Continuing the Conversation: AACN’s Board has made addressing the PhD pipeline a chief priority, and we recognize the central role the association can play in bringing stakeholders together, including representatives for health care, higher education, and federal agencies. This conversation has just commenced, and we need to hear from all voices if we are to turn the tide.

  • Enhance Marketing for the PhD: AACN is committed to creating resources to help member schools generate strong interest in the PhD. Over the past few months we have created a new section on the Web focused on the PhD in nursing, which highlights the latest data and other resources currently available. To augment this resource, we are developing new marketing materials, including video testimonials from veteran nurse researchers, highlights of the impact that nursing research has had on health care, resources for career counseling, and recommendations on how to engage undergraduates in nursing research.

  • Identify Data Gaps: To better assess pipeline issues and the future of PhD education, AACN is working to identify the data gaps related to this issue and how we can bridge these gaps. We also will work to keep the known data – like those captured in AACN’s October 2018 report on the PhD pipeline – front and center. 

  • Identifying Partners: AACN already has been in touch with many potential partners with an interest in working together to address the PhD pipeline issue. We have had preliminary conversations with key stakeholders, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Jonas Center, Sigma Nursing, and the National Institute of Nursing Research. We will continue to seek broader engagement with other groups including the National Institutes of Health, the Hillman Scholars, regional research societies, the Graduate Nursing Student Academy, the American Academy of Nursing, business partners, and the Nursing Coalition to increase our advocacy around the issue.

AACN is proud to lead this effort and is committed to working collaboratively with member schools and external stakeholders to champion the PhD and inspire the next generation of nursing scientists. 


Past Rounds with Leadership:

November 28, 2018 - Artificial Intelligence

October 24, 2018 - AACN LEADS: Your Leadership Journey Accelerated!

September 26, 2018 - The Nursing Community Coalition Celebrates 10 Years

August 29, 2018 - Collaborating to Advance the PhD in Nursing

July 25, 2018 - Exercising Thought Leadership

June 27, 2018 - Moving Nursing Science from the Margin to Mainstream

May 23, 2018 - Rallying Support for Nursing Education

April 25, 2018 - Watching the Numbers

March 28, 2018 - Surveying the Landscape of Higher Education

February 28, 2018 - With Appreciation

January 31, 2018 - Strengthening the Pipeline to the PhD

November 29, 2017 - From Dialogue to Collaboration

October 25, 2017 - Bridging the Nurse Faculty Shortage

September 27, 2017 - Joining the Conversation about Competency-Based Education

August 23, 2017 - A Time for Moral Courage

July 26, 2017 - Leading the Way

June 28 - 2017 - Understanding Health Equity

May 24, 2017 - A Global Commitment to Advancing Academic Nursing

April 26, 2017 - Why We Need to Talk About Nursing Science

March 22, 2017 - Vital Directions for Nursing

February 22, 2017 - Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

January 25, 2017 - New Year, New Home Base for AACN

November 16, 2016 - The Lame-Duck Session and the New Administration

October 26, 2016 - Harnessing the Power of Technology

September 28, 2016 - Contemplating the Future of Higher Education

August 24, 2016 - Taking the Lead on Information Curation