PhD in Nursing

The purpose of doctoral education in nursing is to foster the next generation of nurse scholars who will advance nursing scholarship, nursing leadership and maintain the integrity and vitality of the discipline. Doctoral graduates in nursing should become stewards of the discipline, people who are entrusted with advancing nursing knowledge, preserving and developing the nursing literature, communicating nursing knowledge to others, and understanding and advancing the role of nursing in society.

A doctoral graduate in nursing will be self-directed, have a deep, active knowledge of a particular focus of study within the field of nursing, and will make a significant contribution to the literature in that area.

The PhD program is delivered in a distance learning format, supplemented with two or three mandatory on-campus visits. PhD students are required to make at least one trip per year to the UVic Campus to attended scheduled meetings, complete the oral defence of the candidacy, prepare the research proposal, and complete the final defence. First-year students are required to attend a two-week orientation in September and to attend classes and several scholarly events on campus for two weeks in January.  

This program is intended for full-time study and can be completed in four years. Entry to the program is every second year (2020, 2022, 2024). Prospective PhD students must have a faculty member willing to serve as their academic supervisor. 

Course Sequencing: Year One

  • Complete the required year one courses 
  • Work with your supervisor to articulate a research problem and a doctoral program plan:
    • Choose electives
    • Consider how additional experiences may included in the program (e.g, teaching or research internship, teaching assistantship)
    • Plan a timeline for the comprehensive examination and thesis proposal. 
      Students are eligible to write their comprehensive examination once they register for NURS 693 and have to complete this step within 24 months of admission into the program.
      Students are eligible to defend their proposal after successfully completing their comprehensive examination and have to complete this step within 36 months of admission into the program.
Courses - Year One
September-December January-April May-August

NURS 601
Philosophy in Nursing

Qualitative Research Design
NURS 693
Candidacy Examination Preparation

NURS 602
Epistemological Discourses in the Study of Nursing

Nurs 604B

Quantitative Research Design 

NURS 621: Doctoral Seminar

Course Sequencing: Year Two

Year two students complete the seminars (NURS 622 and 679), take elective courses (if needed and as determined with their supervisor), and complete their comprehensive examinations (deadline to complete: August of year 2). Depending on the timing of the comprehensive examination, students may also defend their proposal in year 2. 

Courses - Year Two
September-December January-April May-August

NURS 622
Dissertation Seminar

Internship/Topical Seminar Candidacy Examination
(Comprehensive Exams within first 24 months)

NURS 679*
1.5 units required
(students may take up to 4.5 units)
Doctoral Research Seminar

NURS 679*


Elective as needed


Course Sequencing: Year Three

Year three students defend their proposal (deadline: August of year 3), submit their ethics proposal and start actively working on their thesis work under the direction of their supervisor and committee. 

Courses - Year Three

September-December January-April May-August

NURS 693
Candidacy Examination

NURS 699

Elective, Research Internship, Teaching Internship or Directed Studies

Course Sequencing: Year Four

Year four students complete thesis work and submit their thesis for examination and defense (deadline: August of year 4).

Courses - Year Four
September-December January-April May-August

NURS 699
30.0 units

Elective, Research Internship, Teaching Internship or Directed Studies

Oral Exam
(upon completion of courses and dissertation)

Foundational and Core Courses

Your learning in the PhD program is supported by beginning with the foundational courses NURS 601: Philosophy of Nursing, and NURS 602: Epistemological Discourses in the Study of Nursing. The research courses NURS 604A and NURS 604B build knowledge acquired from these foundational courses.

601, 602, 604 A and 604 B are core courses that must be completed at UVic, consistent with the PhD course sequencing. Out of sequence students requiring these core courses will complete them at the next available offering. 

NURS 601 and NURS 602 are co-requisites. NURS 601 focuses on the range of philosophical schools of thought and traditions that have influenced the development of the discipline of nursing. In NURS 602, the current state of theorizing that underpins nursing disciplinary knowledge claims is explored. Understanding what there is to be known (nursing epistemology) and our way of being (nursing ontology) are foundational to nursing research and practice.

NURS 604A and NURS 604B are designed to facilitate advanced exploration of the assumptions and claims that underpin research in health care and professional practice. This knowledge is critical for understanding and evaluating research and for making appropriate choices about dissertation research methods. NURS 604A (qualitative) and NURS 604B (quantitative) provide a critical foundation for Special Topics in Research Methods (NURS 680). Through one or more semesters of NURS 680, learners obtain greater depth in specific methods they might utilize for their dissertation research (NURS 699). With these foundations, a directed studies course (NURS 690) can be designed to accommodate areas of interest for individual students. Such a directed studies course also can be taken to enhance substantive knowledge or methodological knowledge to round out learner's doctoral preparation and/or to enhance dissertation research.

Students will be required to take 1.5 units of NURS 679 coursework and can, with permission of their program supervisor, enrol in as many as 4.5 units of NURS 679 coursework. Scheduled over two terms to facilitate student engagement among multiple cohorts.

As a required course, NURS 679 or an equivalent course must be taken before candidacy.

Doctoral Seminars

Two doctoral seminars (NURS 621 and NURS 622) are designed to better acquaint doctoral students with doctorally prepared scholars and scientists in the university and community, to provide practical guidance in working through the doctoral program, and to provide a forum for students to share their research ideas as well as their experiences related to the process and preparation for candidacy and dissertation research, including preparation for the oral defense.


In consultation with supervisors, students may seek or be required to enrol in additional, elective course work. Electives may include: NURS 620: Research Internship. Individually engaging in research with a faculty member (unpaid), taken at any time during the program. NURS 630: Teaching Internship. Engaging with several aspects of nursing education, for example, classroom or on-line teaching, educational research initiatives and/or, writing a paper for publication. NURS 690: Directed Studies. May be taken at any time during the program, after the first term. Courses taken in another faculty may count as electives. Electives may also be taken after candidacy.

NURS 620: Research Internship

Research internships (NURS 620) are arranged with a specific faculty member, and may be taken over one term or several terms. During the research internship, learners will have hands-on experiences with research, for example, the conceptualization of a study, study design, applying for funding, obtaining ethical approval, accessing the field, collecting, analyzing data, writing, and knowledge translation.

NURS 630: Teaching Internship

Teaching Internships may be arranged with a specific faculty member and may be taken over one or several terms. During the Teaching Internship, a student will engage with several aspects of nursing education, for example, classroom or on-line teaching, educational research initiatives and/or, writing a paper for publication.

Read about the program objectives

Doctoral graduates in nursing will possess:

  • A broad, critical knowledge of the nursing literature, its historical and contemporary views related to ontology, epistemology, and methodology (e.g., to discern among research methods and develop expertise in research methodologies consonant with a chosen focus of inquiry) as well as how diverse aspects of nursing relate to each other.
  • Ability to conduct independent and original research, including conceptualization and design, analysis and interpretation of data, dissemination of research findings and implications of nursing ideas to diverse audiences (e.g., healthcare professionals, policy makers), and contribution to nursing disciplinary knowledge.
  • Competencies (e.g., knowledge and skills) to teach and translate knowledge at different levels and in different contexts, and ability to help others learn how to combine creativity, imagination, and compassion with rigor, logic, and critical thinking.
  • Understanding of and commitment to the profession and ethical professional engagement in the discipline of nursing and professional service, both within the graduates’ immediate community and within the broader community of nurse scholars and their roots.
  • General understanding of nursing centrality in society, nursing impact on many fields of human health, and the impact other disciplines have on nursing.
UVic has provided me with so many meaningful opportunities to be mentored by researchers in my field. As part of these relationships I've been able to be involved in every step of the research process, from study design to publication. This experinece has been invaluable in preparing me to become an independent researcher. Erin Donald, third year PhD student