34 percent of the nursing faculty is expected to retire, exacerbating the current situation. The maturing R.N. workforce is a product of two phenomena: (1) a shrinking pool of young nurses entering the R.N. population and (2) large cohorts of the R.N. population moving into their 50s and 60s (Spratley et al., 2000).
The average age of nursing faculty members is over 50, most likely a function of the discipline’s conventional late entry to doctoral study. The advanced age of nursing Ph.D.s may stem from the norms of the profession, which encourages its members to acquire considerable professional experience before seeking research training (NRC, 2000).
The average age of nurses upon completion of the doctorate is 46 years, well beyond that of other disciplines where the average age is 33 years. Those receiving National Research Service Award (NRSA) funds, which demand full-time study, are generally over 40 by the time they complete their studies (NRC, 2000). About 49 percent of all nurse-Ph.D. graduates enter the service sector rather than academia.
There is an urgent need for enhanced recruitment of men and women into graduate and nursing education programs. In March 2000, R.N.s enrolled in formal education programs leading to a nursing or nursing-related degree represented only 6.7 percent of all the country’s R.N.s, or 180,765 of the 2,696,540 population (Spratley et al., 2000). Enrollees tended to be part-time students (76 percent) and to be employed full-time in nursing (72 percent). Of the 180,765 nurses pursuing formal education, about 53 percent were enrolled in programs leading to a baccalaureate degree, 36.4 percent in programs leading to a master’s degree, and less than 4 percent in doctoral programs.
All baccalaureate programs in nursing education have built-in components: basic research methods, statistics, and research utilization. The overwhelming majority of master’s programs have a research obligation. Often this obligation takes the form of a requirement to carry out an evaluation study while receiving clinical experience or perhaps a requirement to do a secondary analysis of an existing clinical database. Doctoral training for nurses is by nature research intensive, just as it is in other disciplines. Many postdoctoral programs in nursing expect fellows to submit an individual grant proposal for external funding (e.g., NRSA) by the end of the fellowship period (McBride, 2003).