SON Receives Prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future of Nursing Scholars Grant to Prepare PhD Nurses

Sizeable matching private donations from School alumna Carolyn London BSN ’56 and the Carl Swisher Foundation help bring grant to North Carolina.

The UNC School of Nursing is one of only 32 schools of nursing nationwide to receive a grant to increase the number of nurses holding PhDs. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Future of Nursing Scholars program will provide financial support, mentoring, and leadership development to nurses who commit to earn their PhDs in three years.

The Future of Nursing Scholars program is a multi-funder initiative. In addition to RWJF, various corporations and foundations are supporting the Future of Nursing Scholars grants to schools of nursing this year. The UNC School of Nursing received critical matching funds from alumna Carolyn London, BSN ’56, and the Carl S. Swisher Foundation to bring the grant to Carolina.

“I am indebted to the pioneers who started the School, to the deans and faculty who afforded me the wonderful education I received,” said London, a member of the School’s second BSN class, whose matching donation is just the latest in many years of generous support of the School. London was instrumental in founding the UNC School of Nursing Foundation which is devoted to raising private funds to support the School, and she served on its board for more than 30 years. “It is a privilege to help address the need for future nursing faculty and research by matching the RWJF grant.”

The Carl S. Swisher Foundation, headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, was formed in 1949 to support initiatives in education and health. The foundation has supported the School of Nursing for 20 years as an exemplar of its philanthropic goals and views providing matching funding to support the education of much-needed nursing faculty members as an excellent opportunity to leverage resources to help alleviate the faculty shortage. It also looks forward to enhancing its strong partnership with the UNC School of Nursing through the Future of Nursing Scholars program.

The SON will select two scholars who will begin the Future of Nursing Scholars program this summer and their PhD studies this fall.

In its landmark nursing report, the Institute of Medicine recommended that the country double the number of nurses with doctorates; doing so will prepare nurses to advance health care, promote nurse-led science and discovery, and put more educators in place to prepare the next generation of nurses. The Future of Nursing Scholars program is intended to help address that recommendation.

“Since the release of the IOM report, enrollment in doctorate of nursing practice programs has increased an incredible 160% from 2010 to 2014 while the increase of PhD enrollment has only been 14.6%,” said Susan Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, co-director of the program and RWJF’s senior adviser for nursing. “At RWJF, we are striving to grow the number of nurses with PhDs who will be prepared to assume leadership positions across all levels.”

The number of nurses enrolled in PhD programs is not the only issue addressed by this program. The average age at which nurses get their PhDs in the United States is 46—13 years older than PhD earners in other fields. This program will provide an incentive for nurses to start PhD programs earlier, allowing for longer leadership careers after earning their PhDs.

“The Future of Nursing Scholars represent a group of students who are already making considerable contributions to the field,” said Julie Fairman, PhD, RN, FAAN, Future of Nursing Scholars program co-director. “These nurses are publishing their research and meeting with national leaders, while working at an advanced pace so that they can complete their PhD education in only three years.” Fairman is also the Nightingale professor of nursing and the chair of the Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.