Is this scholarship?
A Refereed Article
Linda S. Smith, MS, DSN, RN
Assistant Professor, Oregon Health Sciences University School of Nursing
3201 Campus Drive SN-OIT
Klamath Falls OR 97601 USA
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Fax: 541-885-1855
The concept of nursing scholarship is analyzed in this paper using five
divisions or attributes. The five characteristics of a scholar are long
academic study resulting in mastery of knowledge within a discipline,
investigative skills, analytic skills and original/creative/integrative
thinking, knowledge dissemination, and knowledge application. These perspectives
are interrelated, one cannot occur without the rest. Concern is expressed,
however, over the loss of essential scholarly nursing content from baccalaureate,
masters, and doctoral nursing programs.
Key words: scholarship, nursing profession, discipline of nursing, nurse
"What is scholarship?" I asked a university reference librarian.
Her carefully chosen response was, "It depends." "Depends
on what?" I queried. "On who, what, and when youre applying
the term. It can mean anything." "Do I have it yet?" I
asked. Or maybe it is something one always strives for but never achieves.
Is it a process like self actualization that never quite materializes?
How would you know," I continued, "if I did or didnt have
scholarship?" Her response, "You would publish in juried journals."
The phone rang and our discourse ended.
So I tried several on-line and print dictionaries (Collins Cobuild 2000;
Grove 1961, Looksmart 2000; WordNet 1999; Wordsmyth 1999; wwwebster 1996)
and concluded that scholarship referred to profound knowledge acquired
through long and rigorous academic research and study within a field;
it means enlightenment (education resulting from analysis, understanding,
and shared knowledge), eruditeness, and learnedness. Thus, scholarship
is the character, qualities, achievements, and activities of scholars
and is synonymous with learning, knowledge, and study. Scholars endeavor
to be creative, original thinkers within a field of learning. In summary,
the attributes of scholars include long academic study resulting in mastery
of knowledge within a field or discipline, investigative skills, analytic
skills, and creative, reflective original thought.
According to the consulted dictionaries, scholars possess five attributes.
According to the librarian, scholars publish. How does all of this apply
to nursing scholarship? I believe I will delve deeper.
In her classic 1964 article for the American Journal of Nursing, Henderson
described her passion, her plans, and her definitions of nursing. She
wrote of nursings unique contributions to client health and described
such terms as world-wide social activity, individualized care, interrelations
between psychosocial and physical elements, client independence and rehabilitation,
client coping, and the nurse-patient relationship. Henderson wanted nurses
to be educated broadly, at the university level, with a strong curricular
emphasis on human needs, not medical diagnoses.
I met Virginia Henderson several times and cherished each experience
as leaving a lasting impression. During long and heated meetings, she
never failed to add refreshingly insightful comments to almost every discussion.
Truly, Henderson was a nursing scholar. But does scholarship exist only
with nursings elite? Can we, should we expect scholarship at the
baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral preparation levels?
Scholarship is a lifelong commitment toward the dissemination of gifts
given to nurses by clients, colleagues, educators, peers, and society.
A nurse scholar, (a) endures long academic study resulting in the mastery
of nursing knowledge, (b) possesses investigative skills (the scholarship
of discovery) resulting in original research, (c) has the ability to creatively
think through and analyze connections (scholarship of integration and
originality), (d) is dedicated toward the dissemination of nursing knowledge
through teaching and publishing activities inside and outside the discipline
of nursing, and (e) demonstrates commitment toward the application of
nursing knowledge within an international context of human needs. These
categories are not unlike others proposed in nursing literature (Sellers,
Brady & Hansen, 1996, Brown et al. 1995, Diers 1995, Meleis, Hall
& Stevens 1994, Parse 1994, Shoffner, Davis & Bowen 1994, Tanner,
1991). Though categories seem consistent among authors, members of the
nursing profession hold divergent views within each stated area.
The first description of a scholar centered around a lengthy period of
academic study that results in knowledge mastery within the discipline
of nursing. The content (measure) of this study across disciplines is
agreed to be the earned doctoral degree. These programs must be of the
highest quality because of their critical importance to the development
of the discipline (Germain et al. 1994), and because they educate scholars
able to make major contributions to nursing (Meleis, Hall & Stevens
1994) and healthcare. Programs must have environments that nurture, support,
and facilitate scholarship (Meleis 1992) through scholarly caring (Salmon
The difficulty arises, however, in the disparity of how one earns a doctorate.
Currently, there are five ways to do this within nursing. These five include
a controversial hierarchy of perceived value topped by the Ph.D. in nursing
(Flaherty 1989, Forni 1989).The professional degree (practice-focused)
and the academic degree (research-focused) controversy is alive and well.
Forni (1989) wrote that the multiplicity of doctoral nursing programs
would continue and the two trajectories (Ph.D./DNSc) would be important
for the advancement of the discipline, even though the Ph.D. was gaining
in popularity among all nursing doctoral programs. To many, the Ph.D.
traditions of theory, research, and scholarship are appropriate and congruent
with the goals of the discipline of nursing. Ph.D.
An additional and growing controversy is the proliferation of masters
nursing programs preparing nurse practitioners (NP) (see http://www.healthcentre.
org.uk/np/courses.htm for web sites and links to UK nurse practitioner
programs). I strongly caution the profession of nursing against an exclusive
investment in these programs as a method to improve societys perception
of nursings value. MSN programs are being reformatted and faculty
in these programs are being retooled so that greater and greater numbers
of nurse practitioners can be produced (Hall & Stevens 1995).
Educational programs for NPs include a great deal that is borrowed from
the discipline of medicine. The important question, of course, is what
do nurse practitioners do that is nursing and how will they enhance and
advance our profession (Hall & Stevens, 1995). Yet, consistently,
the most valued credential in the nursing want ad sections is the nurse
practitioner - even for faculty positions in colleges and universities.
As NP numbers increase, medicine gains in two ways. They will enjoy the
increasing rift between academic and clinical preparation for nurses and
their less-than-desirable tasks will be absorbed by NPs for far less remuneration
(Hall & Stevens 1995). But as NP numbers increase and NP programs
continue to promote the idea of mid-level medicine, how will nursing scholarship
move forward and develop?
In 1992 Meleis wrote a seven-item list of required content for MSN programs
(p. 329). NP preparation did not appear on this list. What appeared, rather,
were delineations regarding theory, research, and critical knowledge
of nursing science development. Presently, however, the goals of NP programs
are service driven (Hall & Stevens 1995) and program curricula seem
more and more to have eliminated scholarly content related to the theory
generating and theory building endeavors of scientific inquiry.
The second scholarly descriptor is the scholarship of discovery. Here,
investigative skills and original research are expectations. Nursing research
must be based on nursing theory (Blegen & Tripp-Reimer 1994), mediated
by knowledge of research designs and instruments, and complemented by
knowledge within a substantive area (Hall & Stevens, 1995, Meleis
The scholarship of discovery is at the heart of all academic disciplines
because discovery produces the basis for all other scholarship descriptors
(Brown et al. 1995). Although primary investigators need doctoral preparation,
all nurses need to participate in knowledge discovery activities (Kitson
1999, Schutzenhofer 1991) because researchers and scholars engaged in
discovery ask important questions such as, "What do we need to learn;
what is yet to be discovered," These questions are at the heart of
an academic and scholarly profession.
Nursing research began with Nightingale who systematically and statistically
communicated devastating healthcare conditions to political leaders. The
organization of Sigma Theta Tau places the highest possible regard for
nursings scientific progress by sponsoring a research-based journal
and funding and sponsoring research activities. Thus, it is clear that
the profession of nursing is committed to the scholarship of discovery.
But who, I ask, will carry the Nightingale torch if baccalaureate and
masters in nursing programs eliminate the theory-based, research-based
foundations of our profession?
INTEGRATION AND ORIGINALITY
The third description of a scholar includes analytical skills and creative,
original thought. Connections that bridge integration between theory,
practice, and education are expected. Parse (1994) identified this area
as the willingness to risk challenge and the courage of convictions when
new ideas threaten the status quo. It is a perpetual curiosity and focused
committed attitude characterized by persistent wonder. It is a time to
mull over ideas (Armiger 1974) and develop new partnerships and skills
(Schutzenhofer 1991). Nightingale spoke of the trained power of attending,
observing, and seeing that which was invisible to others (Nightingale
1969/1859). It is a kind of Sherlock Holms investigative mind set that
acknowledges ignorance and drafts new theories and awakenings (Diers 1995).
This comes with challenge, maturity, experience, as well as rigorous and
mentored educational endeavors. New nursing insights are the result of
these activities (Tanner 1991) and a continually revised interdisciplinary
logic that contributes to world-wide healthcare improvements (Kitson 1999,
Thus, as nurses engage in scholarly endeavors, we are confronted with
fresh thought that links tightly with research endeavors and gives meaning
and perspective to facts. It is thinking that travels beyond our own profession
of nursing and beyond our own science. It is the larger picture (Salmon
1999). Unfortunately, programs that discourage students from introducing
and testing new ideas destroy important potential (Boyer 1990) and foster
our own elitist exclusionary tendencies (Salmon 1999). Baccalaureate and
masters nursing programs that continue to promote medical model,
disease-oriented, task-oriented, memory-oriented endeavors will soon consume
the hard-won advances our beloved profession has made.
The fourth attribute of scholarly activity is the commitment toward knowledge
dissemination through teaching and publishing. The process of sharing
knowledge is a critically important endeavor for nurse-scholars. It is
a process of transforming knowledge through teaching and role modeling
excellence (Sellers, Brady & Hansen 1996).
A qualified educator guides students toward personal and professional
discovery (Shoffner, Davis & Bowen 1994) by asking questions that
provoke thinking rather than merely providing answers, promoting exploration
rather than judgment; encouraging free thought rather than rote memory.
Faculty role model the passion for the journey of discovery and nursings
greater obligation to humanity. Concerns for the lack of value placed
on the teaching role are not unique to nursing; four physicians wrote
of the problems related to teaching activities. Rewards such as top teacher
awards are great incentives for quality teaching activities, especially
when valued by administrators. As promotional emphasis is placed on teaching
endeavors, scholarship and dignity will be appropriately placed on the
teaching-learning process (Ernest et al. 1995).
With administrative support, nursing faculty need to create educational
experiences that help students respond to community challenges enhance
knowledge of the social, political, and healthcare contexts that marginalize
our client base (Salmon 1999, Hall & Stevens 1995). This change in
curricula further includes a need to educate students with survival skills
that help them cope with current and future healthcare challenges (Gorrell
& Langenbach 1994).
A problem exists, however. when doctorally prepared faculty need to regroup
in order to teach NP courses. Interestingly, in 1964 Hoexter wrote of
her growing concerns regarding the function orientation of graduate curricula.
Today, as I examine the increased NP programs and their function-oriented
course offerings, I continue to express concern
Of course, the process of knowledge dissemination through publishing
activities is also important to the advancement of nursing. Most nursing
journals have as their mission the publication of scholarly contributions
(Akinsanya 1996). Publication requires the scholar to speak and write
with clarity, accuracy, creativity, and precision (Diers 1995). This idea
also means, read broadly, think more so; write to learn, write to think,
think to write. Nursings body of knowledge will not increase if
nurses selfishly hide their findings (Parse 1994) from peers, colleagues,
and public scrutiny. Furthermore, nursings body of knowledge will
not increase if nursing students in baccalaureate and masters programs
have failed to understand their important role in promoting our future
through knowledge dissemination. But how does a nurse choose to engage
in such activities if these activities were never presented within their
undergraduate and graduate socialization process? Students absorb the
values of faculty. As scholars, faculty promote the endeavors of theory-based
research and research-based practice. Furthermore, knowledge dissemination
should not just be reserved for research-based reports. True contributions
that reflect changes such as political, regulatory, and economic pressures
of healthcare will help todays nursing student survive (Sullivan
1996) and the profession to measure its own impact and worth.
The fifth and final descriptor of scholarship includes a commitment toward
the application of knowledge. It is the backbone of our accountability
and commitment to the clients we serve. Nurses need to ask and answer
questions and solve problems that concern the most disenfranchised, marginalized
clients need for health and safety. This is the sacred trust and
the reality of nursing practice and it needs to be rewarded with the same
vigor as other academic endeavors (Sullivan 1996, Boyer 1990). Armiger
(1974) called this humanistic scholarship that increased healthcare quality
and ensured caring as a nursing characteristic. Henderson called it nursings
In conclusion, as we start the new millennium, I believe the future of
the nursing profession is at risk. As baccalaureate, masters, and
doctoral nursing programs remove rigorous nursing theory and nursing research
endeavors from their curricula, adding procedure-oriented, function-specific,
medically-based content, essential creativity, perpetual curiosity, and
role appreciation is lost. Henderson cautioned us to examine human needs,
not medical diagnoses, by using a holistic and uniquely nursing theoretical
framework. I strongly caution the profession to examine, define, and promote
the nursing scholarship our public needs most.
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