Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Sheila Davis

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Bonnie Harbaugh

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Anita Boykins

Committee Member 3 Department


Committee Member 4

Kyna Shelley

Committee Member 4 Department

Educational Research and Administration

Committee Member 5

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 5 Department


Committee Member 6

Joan Warren


The need for nurses to pursue doctoral education is imperative to the professionalization of the discipline of nursing in light of the changing healthcare environment. Presently, < 1% of the nursing workforce possesses a doctoral degree (“Transforming Nursing Education,” 2016), albeit recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) (2010) admonish the need to increase the number of doctoral-prepared nurses. The need to understand characteristics of nurses who seek doctoral education is critical in planning long-term strategies for nursing education in the United States (US) (Kovner, Brewer, Katigbak, Djukic, & Fatehi, 2012). In conjunction with describing characteristics of nurses pursuing doctoral education, this research describes the motivational orientation and factors of registered nurses (RNs) pursuing doctoral education.

A descriptive correlational design was utilized to examine concepts relating to motivational orientation of RNs pursuing doctoral education. Participants were divided into two categories: (a) RNs seeking the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree and (b) RNs pursuing the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. A total of 173 RNs enrolled in either a Ph.D. or DNP program in the Gulf South region of the US comprised the final sample. Binary logistic regression was utilized to analyze the motivational orientation. Results of the study indicated that participants self-identified with the motivational orientation of intrinsic motivation-to know—reflective of a self-determined motivational orientation. The second highest self-reported motivational orientation was extrinsic motivation-identified which further reflected a self-determined motivational orientation. Positive correlates included geographical locale, age, and race.

Namely, the odds of nonwhites as compared to whites were 1.857 times greater for enrollment in a Ph.D. course of study. Further results reflected the odds of someone residing in a rural area as compared to an urban area were 0.532 times less in a Ph.D. program. The odds of being in a Ph.D. program are 1.759 times greater for a 40-year-old as compared to a 39-year-old. By identifying the motivational orientation of RNs engaged in doctoral study, nurse administrators, policymakers, and educational institutions must seek innovative means to recruit RNs with a self-determined motivational orientation.