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Candy McCabe
Candy McCabe

Press Release - 26 April 2005

Survey shows ambition among senior nurses for shaping the research agenda

Senior nurses are interested in studying for a professional doctorate that would put them on an equal research footing with doctors and medical scientists, a new survey has shown.

They cite an ambition to influence the research agenda from a nursing perspective and a desire to strengthen the contribution of nursing to patient care as being among the main reasons for their interest in achieving the qualification.

Two thirds of those surveyed, which also included medical directors, and HR directors, felt that a professional doctorate qualification, which would give formal recognition for their skills and knowledge in a research setting, would also help their career development towards consultant practitioner status.

The survey was carried out by the University of Bath who will be running an online Professional Doctorate in Health from September 2005.

One of only a handful of such courses to have emerged following confirmation of the NHS Agenda for Change, the doctorate will provide a range of healthcare personnel with research training in their own practice setting. These include doctors, psychiatrists, nurses and allied health professionals.

These kinds of courses will ultimately help strengthen the nursing profession, said Dr Candy McCabe, a nurse who completed a PhD at the University of Bath last year. [see case study]

“On a personal level, having an academic background is incredibly useful both in the clinic and in the roles I have been able to take on since the completion of my PhD,” said Dr McCabe.

“It gives me professional credibility in relation to the academic world that enables me to stand on an equal footing to colleagues from across the healthcare sector.

“I have also been able to use my experience to train some of the other nurses and occupational therapists that I work with, which is helping broaden their understanding, at the same time as developing the resources available to the Trust.”

Dr Andrea Taylor, from the University of Bath’s School for Health, who has developed the Professional Doctorate in Health, said, “Although many nursing and allied healthcare professionals participate in research as part of their normal role, we expect the course to appeal most to mid-career professionals who are looking to become consultant practitioners or leaders in their field of expertise.”

“The flexible structure of the programme allows participants to graduate with a Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma or MSc in Research Methods in Practice if they choose not to complete the full Doctorate of Health course.

“Whatever route they choose, they gain a high level of research training that is appropriate to their needs, which are often much broader than can be addressed by conventional PhD study. The course is designed with the busy health professional in mind.”

Each student on the course will have the opportunity to agree an individual development plan in consultation with a personal development adviser to help them meet their learning objectives. The programme of study and research agenda will therefore be determined by what the individual participant needs to know, enabling the students to find their own ‘voice’ as researchers.

Much of this innovative distance-learning course will be delivered through the University’s distinctive Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) with content provided by experts from the University and beyond. Face-to-face research forums will provide students with the opportunity to explore ideas with ‘expert witnesses’, in a supportive setting.

The VLE will support both individual and group learning – allowing participants to peer review each other’s emerging research designs. Support for the research phase of the degree will be provided by a panel of supervisors drawn from both academic and practice contexts.

Applications for the programme are currently being accepted, although places will be strictly limited.

People interested in finding out more about the course should contact Dr Andrea Taylor on 01225 384 442 or, or visit:

The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities, with an international reputation for quality research and teaching. View a full list of the University's press releases: