Nursing prof’s research finds a weak spot in PhD programs

Amy Weaver

Amy Weaver

Amy Weaver says she’s the kind of person who likes to stay “crazy busy.”

That explains how the assistant professor of Nursing managed to participate in a national research project as a member of a prestigious doctoral cohort while pursuing her PhD and working full-time as a YSU nursing instructor.

Weaver conducted the research as one of five doctoral students nationwide who were named Jonas Scholars by the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence/National League for Nurses. She was nominated for the honor by Villanova University, where she was completing her PhD in nursing at the time.

The Jonas Scholars analyzed doctoral nursing programs in five states to determine how well they prepare students to be educators. “Many nurses pursue a PhD because they want to teach,” Weaver explained. “We wanted to find out whether we are throwing nurse educators out there without the training they need.”

Weaver’s research covered all PhD nursing programs in the state of South Carolina – others studied Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Oregon. They analyzed course offerings and looked for courses on topics such as curriculum planning and teaching methods.

In general, she said, programs the Jonas Scholars evaluated were weak or inconsistent in offering appropriate courses to prepare doctoral students to be educators. They reported their findings at an American Association of Colleges of Nursing conference, which was attended by deans and directors of nursing programs, and published the findings in a nursing journal.

“We can only hope it will make a difference,” Weaver said. “You assume that nurse educators are prepared for the classroom. In many cases, they have the degree but no training on how to teach.”

Weaver has more than 20 years of nursing experience and joined the YSU faculty in 2003. “A lot of people become experts as nurses before they go into teaching, and nursing lends itself well to that,” she said. “Students tell me in my evaluations that they like the way I use practical examples to explain things. It’s a huge part of my teaching.”

She earned an undergraduate degree in nursing at West Liberty State College, a master’s in nursing from YSU and completed her PhD at Villanova in 2013.

Weaver and her husband live in Vienna and share an interest in rescuing unwanted dogs. They spend many of their weekends transporting rescue animals from foster homes to new, permanent homes.