Professional doctorates and nursing practice contribution: a systematic literature search and descriptive synthesis



    1. Associate Head of School, International, University of Salford, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, Salford, Greater Manchester, UK
    Search for more papers by this author

Nancy-Jane Smith
University of Salford
School of Nursing
Midwifery and Social Work
Frederick Road Campus
Salford M6 6PU
Greater Manchester


Aim  To understand how professional doctorates contribute to nursing practice.

Background  Professional doctorate philosophies espouse the integration of research with the practitioner researcher’s practice milieu. It is timely to appraise this and to illuminate the implications for nurse managers and leaders.

Evaluation  Five databases were searched for papers with explicit methodologies published between January 2005 and May 2012. Descriptive synthesis was applied to identify emergent themes.

Key issues  Enhanced understanding of nursing practice and insight into factors influencing care management are professional doctorate outcomes. Changes to nursing practice are more difficult to extrapolate. Professional doctorates facilitate professional legitimization and empowerment for practitioner researchers. Collegiate study and peer networking opportunities within professional doctorates may indirectly influence practice development.

Conclusion  Better understanding of the nursing context is an outcome of professional doctorate study.

Implications for nursing management  Managers are pivotal to the translation of research into practice and their role requires exploration. Good practice should be disseminated whereby there is an interface between the nurse manager, the practitioner researcher and academics, before, during and after the professional doctorate. Nurse managers need to appreciate the range of doctoral programmes available to match staff aspirations and learning preferences with organizational priorities.