Nurses are on the front lines of ethical issues in health care. They typically spend the most time with patients and are most familiar with cases. Yet, they are often constrained by things like institutional policy and limited decision-making authority when ethical situations arise.

Program Outcomes

Our PhD in Nursing Ethics program, the first in the country, is intended to provide nurses with a greater voice and a better framework for handling these situations. You will learn how to think and debate in a rational way, as well as feel more empowered to stand up for what you know is right.

This research-focused program will help you develop the intellectual skills and the practical knowledge to:

  • Identify ethical issues in nursing practice.
  • Evaluate both the various options according to moral and ethical reasoning and standards of evaluation that are decidedly ethical in nature.
  • Come to a well-reasoned resolution and conclusion.

Additional outcomes include the ability to:

  • Function as an independent researcher and conduct original research that builds upon prior research and expands the science of nursing.
  • Integrate theoretical frameworks and research findings from other disciplines to enhance the practice of professional nursing.
  • Produce scholarly work that contributes to the science and profession of nursing by communicating creative solutions to problems in nursing and health care.
  • Demonstrate leadership and collaborative strategies to reduce health care disparities on a local, national and international level.
  • Help improve the health of the community by generating new evidence for nursing practice that solves problems related to health care delivery.
  • Evaluate issues that affect health care and advocate for change in health care policies based on evidence and the principles of social justice.

This is an interdisciplinary program offered with the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts Center for Global Health Ethics, so your courses are taught by clinical nursing faculty and health care ethicists, all of whom understand theoretical ethics.

PhD in Nursing Ethics Coursework

The PhD in Nursing Ethics program is a total of 47 credits.

Breakdown of credits:

  • 26 credits - Nursing
  • 12 credits - Health Care Ethics
  • 3 credits - Cognate
  • 6 credits - Dissertation


Please note that revisions to coursework are ongoing. (Required on-campus visit **Required Study Abroad)

Year One: Summer

Course # Course Title or Program Requirement Credits
GPNG 901 State of the Science and Discovery 3 credits
  Doctoral Week*  

Year One: Fall

GPNG 927 Structure of Nursing Knowledge 3 credits
HCE 659 Methods in Health Care Ethics 3 credits

Year One: Spring

GPNG 923 Methods of Scientific Inquiry I 4 credits
HCE 648 Clinical Ethics 3 credits

Year Two: Summer

GPNG 924 Methods of Scientific Inquiry II** 4 credits
GPNG 903 Measurement Issues 3 credits

Year Two: Fall

GPNG 931 Applied Qualitative Practicum 3 credits
HCE 642 Multicultural Society 3 credits

Year Two: Spring

GPNG 940 Statistics II 3 credits
HCE 643 Ethics of Care 3 credits

Year Three: Summer

  Cognate 3 credits
GPNG 921 Foundations of Social and Distributive Justice in Health Policy 3 credits

Year Three: Fall

  Comprehensive Exams 1 credits

Year Three: Spring

GPNG 915 Dissertation 1 credit

Year Four: Summer

GPNG 915 Dissertation 1 credit

Year Four: Fall

GPNG 915 Dissertation 1 credit

Year Four: Spring

GPNG 915 Dissertation 1 credit

Final Semester

GPNG 915 Dissertation Defense* 1 credit

PhD in Nursing Ethics Residencies

The PhD in Nursing Ethics is an online program, which has three in-person residency requirements including a study abroad component. The program may be completed in four years.

Residency 1: Doctoral Week

Every student admitted to the PhD in Nursing Ethics program is required to come to campus for the first residency, usually held during the second or third week of May. This week includes an orientation to the PhD in Nursing Ethics program and provides an opportunity for students to meet faculty and participate in live classes for the courses in which they are enrolled that summer.

Residency 2: Study Abroad

Students enrolled in GPNG 924 Methods of Scientific Inquiry II will take part of the course as a study abroad experience, approximately 10-14 days, in locations such as Dublin, Ireland, where students will have housing at the Duquesne University Ireland campus.

Residency 3: Dissertation Final Defense

Students are required to come to campus for the final public defense of their dissertation.