Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Announces $20 Million Grant to Support Nurse PhD Scientists

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has announced that it is investing $20 million in the new Future of Nursing Scholars program to support some of the country’s best and brightest nurses as they pursue their PhDs. In its landmark nursing report, the Institute of Medicine recommended that the country double the number of nurses with doctorates; doing so will support more nurse leaders, promote nurse-led science and discovery, and put more educators in place to prepare the next generation of nurses. The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, which hosted today’s event to launch the new program, will serve as the national program office for the Future of Nursing Scholars program.

“Implementing the Institute of Medicine nursing report is a major priority for RWJF, because we cannot achieve our mission to improve health and health care without a robust, well-educated nursing workforce and many more highly educated nurse leaders,” said John Lumpkin, MD, MPH, RWJF senior vice president and director of the Health Care Group. “The PhD-prepared nurses the Future of Nursing Scholars program supports will help identify solutions to the country’s most pressing health problems, and educate thousands of nurses over the course of their careers. They will be positioned to lead change and inspire the next generation of nurses.”

Fewer than 3,000 of the nation’s more than 3 million nurses have doctoral degrees in nursing, and many of them have DNPs, not PhDs, which prepare nurses to conduct research and teach. The average age at which nurses get their PhDs in the U.S. is 46–13 years older than PhD earners in other fields. In 2014, schools of nursing will apply to join the Future of Nursing Scholars program, which will support up to 100 PhD nursing candidates over its first two years. The first scholars will begin their PhD studies in 2015. They will receive scholarships, stipends, mentoring, leadership development, and dedicated post-doctoral research support.

To expand the new program’s reach, RWJF has developed a strategic philanthropic collaborative to engage other donors. “Having supported nursing in our region for 10 years, we are very proud to be the first foundation to join this new collaborative, which is bringing together diverse funders to support the PhD-prepared nurse leaders the country needs,” said Lorina Marshall-Blake, president of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation.

“We expect the nurse scholars this program supports to transform health care through innovation in their communities and nationwide.” Marshall-Blake said the Independence Blue Cross Foundation is committing $450,000 over three years to support nurses in becoming transformational leaders in education, research, and policy. The co-directors for the Future of Nursing Scholars program are Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, RWJF’s senior adviser for nursing and Julie Fairman, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Nightingale professor of nursing and director of the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Other speakers at the launch were: Afaf I. Meleis, PhD, DrPS (hon), FAAN, the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing; Elizabeth Galik, PhD, CRNP, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing and an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar whose research is helping older adults suffering from dementia; Munira Wells, PhD, RN, an RWJF New Jersey Nursing Scholar whose research focus is New Jersey nurses who were born in India and faced culture shock in the United States; and Maryjoan Ladden, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior program officer at RWJF.

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