Jul 18, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Nursing, PhD

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Program Coordinator/Director: Pamela Reis (252-744-6478; 4165S Health Sciences Building; reisp@ecu.edu)

The Nursing, PhD equips nurse researchers and scholars to explore, develop, and move forward the scientific bases of nursing practice. Students are prepared to conduct research in the domains of nursing science. The curriculum is enriched through electives taken in the social, behavioral, and biological sciences; interdisciplinary-professional research; and the integration of technology in program delivery. Dissertation research prepares graduates to contribute discoveries to the body of nursing and health care knowledge with a focus in either bio-behavioral or system science. The location and mission of the College of Nursing as well as the expertise of the faculty provide a unique opportunity for the discovery of knowledge related to nursing and health issues in rural underserved areas. Upon graduation, students are prepared to assume leadership positions as researchers, administrators in public and private health care organizations, policy makers and analysts, and university faculty.

The program has three entry options: BSN to PhD, MSN to PhD, and DNP to PhD. The BSN to PhD option blends the doctoral curriculum within two different MSN concentrations – the nursing education concentration and the health systems leadership concentration. It reduces the number of master’s level courses required in the traditional MSN program and facilitates completion of the Nursing, PhD. Within the BSN to PhD entry option there is also an Early Assurance Program for select undergraduate students. The MSN to PhD option is the traditional post master’s pathway for achieving a PhD. The DNP to PhD option is an accelerated pathway that allows up to 12 semester hours from a DNP program to partially fulfill requirements of the PhD program. A minimum of 42 additional semester hours of doctoral coursework taken at ECU is required for a total minimum of 54 semester hours for degree completion.

I. Admission Requirements

  • A personal statement that addresses the candidate’s research interests, potential faculty mentors, research and scholarship goals, and the impetus for pursuing the Nursing, PhD.
  • Two written professional references from individuals with expertise to comment on the applicant’s capability for research and scholarship (for example, university professors, employers). At least one of the references must be from a doctorly-prepared nurse.
  • A master’s degree in nursing from a Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) accredited school. (Applicants without a MSN must have a BSN from an accredited program.) See below for details on the BSN to PhD admission requirements.
  • Minimum grade-point average of 3.2 on a 4.0 scale on all graduate work.
  • Evidence of a current unrestricted license to practice as a registered nurse in North Carolina or a NCSBN compact state. Students on foreign student visas must present evidence of professional standing in their respective countries. BSN to PhD students must obtain an unrestricted license by the end of the fall semester of the year of admission to continue in the program.
  • Satisfactory performance on Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) when English is not the first language.
  • Computer competency, with proficiency in basic software. The school requires that all students use e-mail and web access for communication and coursework.
  • A graduate statistics course that included inferential statistics or another statistical refresher course approved by the PhD program director. Students who do not have the inferential statistics course may take NURS 7638 in the first semester of the program to meet this requirement.
  • A current curriculum vita.
  • Once the student’s application is complete, the interview will be coordinated by the PhD program associate and conducted virtually by a selection committee comprised of PhD program faculty. 

Applicants for admission to the BSN to PhD option must meet general admission requirements for the PhD program. Additional requirements include:

  • Minimum GPA of 3.3 and no grade below B on all previous coursework.
  • BSN from an accredited nursing program.
  • Approval of the director of the MSN concentration selected and the PhD program director.
  • A graduate statistics course that includes inferential statistics or other statistical refresher course approved by the PhD program director prior to enrolling in doctoral courses.

II. Application

The Nursing, PhD program admits 6-10 students each year. Applications for study to begin in the summer semester will be accepted until February 15 or until seats are filled. Applications are processed as received. Applicants are expected to ensure that the Graduate School and the College of Nursing receive all supporting credentials by the final filing date. BSN to PhD applicants enrolled in the final semester of undergraduate study must provide a transcript as soon as they graduate and no later than August 1 of the year enrollment in the graduate program would begin. Applicants are evaluated in four areas: GPA, references, essay, and interview. Completed applications are considered as they are received. All completed applications received by the final filing date will be given careful consideration. Interviews are conducted as completed applications are received. Each applicant will be notified in writing of the admission decision after the admission process is completed.

Preference is given to those who demonstrate a capacity for creative inquiry, critical thinking, scholarship, and leadership. In the case of equally qualified applicants, preference will be given to individuals who intend to pursue doctoral study on a full-time basis. Students will be assigned an academic advisor at the time of admission. All admitted PhD students are required to begin in the 11-week summer school session of the year of acceptance.

III. Degree Requirements

Students are required to complete a minimum of 54 semester hours (s.h.) beyond the master’s degree (includes a minimum of 6 s.h. for dissertation) with the exception of BSN to PhD students who are required to complete between 72 and 80 semester hours and DNP to PhD students who are required to complete a minimum of 54 semester hours that may include up to 12 semester hours from a DNP program to partially fulfill requirements of the PhD program. As in other research-focused programs of doctoral study, students in this program may expect to enroll in more than the minimum required credit hours and to be aware that study opportunities that focus on particular areas of study are in addition to the basic program requirements. Additional study is individualized and depends on the student’s background and graduate preparation as well as the identified career focus. The program of study includes both full- and part-time options. Since enrollments in doctoral programs tend to be small, students need to closely adhere to the plan of study, as courses are offered once a year. To deviate from the plan of study may mean a delay of one or more semesters before course enrollment is again possible.

A. BSN to PhD nursing education requirements - 72-75 s.h.

3. Elective courses - 6 s.h.


NURS 6904 and NURS 6909 fulfill the 6 s.h. elective courses requirement. Students choosing to do a dissertation using qualitative methods will be highly encouraged to take NURS 8236  as one of the elective courses.  It will be counted as a 3 s.h. elective course.

B. BSN to PhD health systems leadership requirements - 77 s.h.

3. Elective course - 3 s.h.


Students choosing to do a dissertation using qualitative methods will be highly encouraged to take NURS 8236 as one of the elective courses.

C. MSN to PhD in Nursing Requirements - 54 s.h.

D. DNP to PhD in Nursing Requirements - 54 s.h.

2. Transfer courses - 12 s.h.

Up to 12 s.h. of graduate credits earned at other institutions may be accepted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the doctoral program. Courses offered for transfer credit will be evaluated individually relative to Graduate School requirements, program requirements, and the student’s plan of study. Please refer to the Graduate School Transfer Credits Policy located in the Academic Regulations section of this catalog. If transfer credit is not approved for NURS 8262, 2 electives or NURS 8255, students will be required to take those additional credit hours.

The DNP to PhD option is an accelerated pathway that awards credit for prior work completed in a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program. Up to 12 semester hours from a DNP program can be used to fulfill requirements of the PhD program.  The student’s credit for coursework in a DNP program is determined based on a transcript review by the PhD program director. A minimum of 42 semester hours of PhD coursework must be taken at ECU for a minimum total of 54 semester hours for degree completion.

BSN and MSN to PhD students must complete at least five semesters in residence. DNP to PhD students must complete at least three semesters in residence.

Students must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) throughout the program. PhD students are permitted to earn a grade of  “C” in only one course during the entire program. After receiving a “C” in a course in the program, the student will be placed on academic probation and if the student earns a second grade of “C” they will be dismissed from the program. Academic progress will be evaluated at the end of each semester by the academic advisor, who is responsible for notifying the CON associate dean for academic affairs if a student’s academic status is in jeopardy.

PhD students apply to take a candidacy examination upon completion of all required nursing courses and prior to beginning the dissertation. This examination must be successfully completed within five years of matriculation.

Students are required to conduct an original research project, which adds to the body of knowledge in nursing, and to communicate the research in a written dissertation, and an oral defense of the dissertation within six years of admission. With endorsement of the dissertation committee and the associate dean for graduate programs, students may request one extension of not more than two semesters, summer semesters included. In exceptional circumstances, students can request up to ten years for completion of the degree; however, this requires consultation with the PhD program director and approval by the dean of the ECU Graduate School. 

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