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Nursing education moves up to the next level

From left are Dr. Alice Gaudine, Dr. Donna Moralejo, Dr. Lan Gien, Dr. Judith McFetridge-Durdle, Dr. Sandra LeFort and Dr. Sandra Small. Missing are Dr. Shirley Solberg and Dr. Chris Way.


By Michelle Osmond

School of Nursing alumna Jill Bruneau has been looking forward to this day for a while. She knew that the School of Nursing would eventually get a PhD program and now she can finally see her dream career as a possibility.

Memorial's nursing PhD program, only the second one east of Montreal, was approved by Senate this past June. Since then, the school has been getting inquiries from people like Ms. Bruneau who don't want to leave home to further their nursing education.

"There are very few doctorate programs in nursing that are offered via distance in Canada and most of these programs have a residency requirement," explained Ms. Bruneau. "We have three young children in our family, so studying and conducting research at a university outside the province is not feasible or convenient."

Ms. Bruneau noted that completing this program in Newfoundland has an added advantage for her.

"I'm interested in pursuing research in cardiovascular nursing in a province that has the highest rate of heart disease in Canada. I am also able to continue my clinical practice as a nurse practitioner and as a nurse educator."

As for Dr. Judith McFetridge-Durdle, offering a nursing PhD program has been part of her vision for the school since she took on the role of dean three years ago.

"The PhD in nursing program signals to the discipline of nursing that Memorial's School of Nursing has come of age and is ready to stand next to the other 15 schools and faculties of nursing in Canada with PhD programs. It's evidence that the school is prepared to contribute to the academy by producing doctoral-prepared scholars, educators, researchers and leaders."

Dr. McFetridge-Durdle also noted it will help the school attract and retain PhD-prepared faculty — something that's getting harder to do. Individuals with doctoral degrees are in high demand in Canada and 50 per cent of them are over the age of 50.

In fact, the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) predicts that by 2022 there will also be almost 60,000 unfilled nursing positions in the country if present trends continue. In most provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador, nurses are required to have a baccalaureate degree. This has increased enrolments in nursing schools across Canada. As well, more faculty are needed to teach those future nurses.

"The PhD in nursing program at Memorial was developed to address the impending shortage of nursing faculty and to generate nursing leaders to address provincial, national and international challenges in healthcare," noted Dr. McFetridge-Durdle.

Dr. McFetridge-Durdle also notes that they will recruit PhD students from the province, the country and other countries which are experiencing the same workforce challenges.

"The School of Nursing has a well-deserved excellent reputation for nursing education at the baccalaureate and master's level and we will ensure that same high quality at the PhD level."

As for Ms. Bruneau, who also has a master's degree of health science and a post-master's certificate, her dream is that a PhD will give her the chance to eventually return to Memorial for a third time; this time as a faculty member teaching future nursing leaders.