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Emphasis Areas

Students customize the PhD program of study by completing 11 credit hours in one of three Emphasis Areas: Health Systems, Symptom Science, Education. In consultation with a faculty mentor, students select nine credits of emphasis area coursework that supports their research interest. The final two credit hours of the Emphasis Area are completed through enrollment in NRSG 970 - Emphasis Area Synthesis.

For DNP to PhD students, the advanced practice or leadership cognate area from the DNP degree program serves as the emphasis area.


The study of healthcare systems is essential to enhanced patient experience, reduced costs, population health, and a meaningfully engaged workforce. The Health Systems emphasis area includes the science of organizational leadership, informatics, data science, health services, and health policy. Students may choose from a variety of recommended graduate courses in nursing, health policy and management, preventive medicine, and statistics.

Examples of KU PhD in Nursing dissertations with a Health Systems emphasis:

• Detecting Sepsis Using Sepsis-Related Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) and an Electronic Sepsis Prompt in Adult Intensive Care Unit Patients

• Leading Change in Critical Access Hospitals: A Case Study of the Journey to Magnet

• Perinatal Mobile (mHealth) Applications: An Evaluation of Content and the Perceptions of Women Who Use Them


Symptom science focuses on understanding the biological and behavioral aspects of symptoms with the goal of developing new knowledge and strategies to foster health and quality of life. Improving understanding of the biology underlying symptoms requires advanced methodological expertise. An "omics" approach advances biomarker discovery and bridges the gap between phenotype and biological mechanisms in order to understand perturbations in homeostasis that may lead to particular symptoms. Symptom science is the pathway to precision health.

The recommended coursework for this emphasis area includes NRSG 950 Symptom Science, NRSG 951 Biomarkers, and an elective course.

Examples of KU PhD in Nursing dissertations with a Symptom Science emphasis:

• Symptom Occurrence and Severity and Health Related Quality of Life in Patients with Breast or Gynecologic Cancer Receiving Matched Cancer Therapy

• Symptom Occurrence, Severity and Quality of Life as Predicted by Variables Related to the Cancer Condition and Selected Demographic Variables

• A Qualitative Descriptive Study of the Needs of Older Adults Recently Diagnosed With Cancer


The education emphasis area provides a foundation in education for students interested in traditional faculty positions that engage students for learning a clinical practice discipline. Educational theory is augmented with evidence-based curriculum design and evaluation for those with research interest in traditional educational environments, as well as staff development and patient education. Educational scholarship, with an emphasis on interprofessional team preparation and technology-based teaching-learning modalities (including simulation), is encouraged.

Students will select three of the following courses: NRSG 870 Teaching Strategies, NRSG 871 Curriculum/Program Planning and Evaluation, NRSG 873 Teaching with Technologies, NRSG 874 Health Professions Educator Preceptorship.

Examples of KU PhD in Nursing dissertations with an Education emphasis:

• Readiness to Learn about Infant Feeding in Mothers of NICU Infants

• Perceptions and Experiences of Baccalaureate Nursing Program Leaders Related to Nursing Informatics

• Faculty Descriptions of the Student Preparation Phase in Undergraduate Nursing Simulation: A Qualitative Descriptive Study

Last modified: Apr 14, 2021