No Finish Line, Sara Turpel, Ph.D./NUR

No Finish Line, Sara Turpel, Ph.D./NUR

“A Ph.D. in Nursing? Is that really a thing? Is there any call for that?” I clearly remember the day a cardiac surgeon with whom I worked found out that I was in a Ph.D. program and asked me these questions. “Sure,” I said confidently, and then quickly walked away so as not to have to continue the conversation. I was confident, mostly. After all, the Institute of Medicine (2010) recommended that nursing needs twice the number of nurses prepared with a doctorate by 2020. In addition, while I was already facilitating online graduate nursing classes part time, I wanted to secure a full-time online faculty position, and a doctoral degree would help me do that. The facts are out there: there is a nursing shortage and a major contributing factor to the shortage is lack of PhD-prepared nurses (Nehls, Barber, & Rice, 2016). A Ph.D. in nursing really is a thing and there is a call for that. Right?

Noelle Stern’s Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles was an important source of support during the dissertation phase of my Ph.D. program. Stern’s (2015) advice throughout the book was spot-on and I referred to it often. When she described Post Parting Depression (PPD), however, I laughed aloud. Was she kidding? I was going to be ecstatic when I finished, I was going to be the happiest person in the world! The world would be my oyster. New opportunities and exciting prospects would just fall from the sky once I had that degree in my hands. Life was going to be full of sunshine and puppies. PPD? Not me!

Once again, Stern was spot-on. I am definitely happy that I am done with the program and I smile to myself every time I look at the framed degree on the wall, but I was surprised at the amount of anxiety I had in the weeks after defending my dissertation. Yes, there are new articles published almost daily about the lack of PhD-prepared nurses and the advertisements for

PhD-prepared nursing faculty abound. However, the reality is that the organizations and institutions looking for PhD-prepared nurses want nurses with a record of research and publication, beyond just the completion of a dissertation, even with experience in higher education. The pressure to find more research in which to participate, to get published, to make my presence known as a doctorally-prepared nurse was overwhelming and, unfortunately, likely took away much of the joy that I should have been basking in.

I have calmed down significantly since that first post-dissertation month. During my Ph.D. program, I was very focused on the finish line, the acceptance of my completed dissertation and getting the paper degree in my hands. I heard repeatedly, throughout the program that completion of my dissertation was just the beginning and, as usual, those faculty members and doctorally prepared colleagues were right. As the saying goes, wherever you go, there you are. I will put to use the same techniques that got me through the last four-and-a-half years to the completion of a Ph.D. in Nursing, to work on continuing down the path of scholarship. I joined appropriate professional organizations, I am networking as much as possible, I accepted one opportunity to present my research and am applying for more, and I feel beyond fortunate that my committee chair is willing to collaborate with me on an article based on my research.

I am realizing now that just like the dissertation process, the journey to scholarship cannot be rushed. More importantly, to get it right, it likely should not be rushed. It turns out that when it comes to being a scholar, there is no finish line.

About Dr. Turpel:

Sara Turpel is a registered nurse working in professional development and online nursing education. As a workforce clinician, she develops, coordinates, and provides continuing education for nurses in specialty nursing areas. Sara facilitates online nursing courses in on a wide variety of topics for both undergraduate and graduate nurses. She has earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Florida International University and earned Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing degrees from the University of Phoenix.


Institute of Medicine. (2010). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Retrieved from

Nehls, H., Barber, G., and Rice, E. (2016). Pathways to the Ph.D. in Nursing: an analysis of similarities and differences. Journal of Professional Nursing, 32(3), 163-172. doi:10.1016/j.profnurs.2015.04.006

Stern, N. (2015). Challenges in writing your dissertation: coping with the emotional, interpersonal, and spiritual struggles. London: Rowman & Littlefield

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