I love, love, love my school, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). It is located in one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the United States, Charleston, S.C. MUSC is #1 in the nation in online PhD nursing programs. This is exciting. However, they did not get to this point by luck. MUSC's doctoral program is carefully crafted to build nursing scientists. When I started I really had no idea what I was getting into. However, at that time I received some of the best advice from upper classmen, "Trust the process." How right they were.
Obtaining a PhD is a process. Once you grasp this you will be a happier student. The groundwork has to be laid. This is where MUSC excels in opening the 'toolboxes' to incrementally supply you with the skills needed to become a scientist. What are the tools?
First, the foundation is laid:
The theory behind nursing research is explored. What has nursing's role in research been in the past and where is it going in the future? I am such a nerd, so I loved this class. Finally, I understood what all those nursing theorists were trying to accomplish and why.
Research classes were combined with statistics and guidance in how to research and write. What is quantitative research? What is your research question? What is an integrative review or a meta analysis? And of course my favorite, what is a p value? Better yet z scores, really?
Little did I know at that time that finding the gaps in knowledge in your area of passion is key to discovering a viable research topic.
As a full-time student, with full-time work, this introduction into nursing research was mind boggling. I felt as if I was barely hanging on and not sure I was retaining any of the necessary information. Later, studies of vulnerable populations, qualitative research, manuscript writing and publication essentials and yet more statistics kept me writing, writing, writing, computing, questioning and critiquing. Ethics, leadership, policy and measurement pushed me one step closer to where I needed to be. Still, I was certain there was no way I was retaining any of this, and as so many times before in my life my goal most days was simple, survive to see the next semester ;-)
Well, to make a long story short, in April I defended my research proposal. I am officially a PhD candidate!!! I am out of my mind excited. I still have a ton to do, but I am getting there. By this time next year...or sooner, it is my hope to have completed my PhD. All the sleepless nights, obsessive thoughts, BBQ fritos, and coffee are finally bearing fruit. So I have my own statistical formula to offer:
(Exponential Reading + Herculean Research) x Persuasive Writing
(Sleepless Nights + Obsessive Thoughts) + (BBQ Fritos + Coffee) x Time
= Compelling Dissertation Proposal
Lastly, the best part of all, is that through all these years of doubt, sweat, tears and laughter, I have accumulated friends, mentors and colleagues that I so appreciate. No one ever reaches a long sought goal without help from others. I have an amazing committee for which I am immensely grateful. I have amazing classmates, friends, colleagues and a precious, long suffering family. And I have my faith in the One who made this all possible.
So to all potential nursing students out there... whether you are going for your ADN, BSN, MSN, DNP or PhD, don't focus on the hardships, the doubts, the school loans, the distractions, these can stop us all in our tracks. Focus on the dream, the still small voice that compels you to move forward. On your way, don't forget to embrace each step, each stumble, each triumph because in the end, it is worth it.