Passan School of Nursing launches Ph.D. in nursing

Wilkes University’s Passan School of Nursing has launched a doctor of philosophy degree in nursing.

The new degree addresses a critical need in nursing education: a supply of Ph.D.-prepared nursing faculty to teach in nursing programs. The Ph.D. in nursing is the only one of its kind in the region and only the second Ph.D. to be offered in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The program is offered in a low-residency format with classes conducted online. Seventeen students representing seven states are in the first class.

“The addition of this degree further enhances the Passan School’s position as a comprehensive school of nursing,” said Deborah Zbegner, dean of the Passan School, noting the school now offers nursing degrees from the undergraduate through doctoral levels.

Robin Chard, Ph.D., RN, CNOR, was previously announced as the coordinator of the Ph.D. program. Chard’s primary clinical experience is in operating room nursing, and her research interests are in the areas of patient safety, communication, and perioperative nursing errors. Prior to joining Wilkes, Chard was a professor of nursing at Nova Southeastern University.

The Passan School of Nursing offers the bachelor’s degree in nursing in both a traditional four-year format, as well as an accelerated format for those who already have a bachelor’s degree. Wilkes offers online master’s degrees in adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and psychiatric/mental heath nurse practitioner, as well as nurse executive, nursing education and nurse informatics.

It was the first in the region to offer the doctor of nursing practice degree, also conducted in an online format.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, faculty shortages are the primary reason nursing schools turn away qualified student applicants. More than 1,500 faculty vacancies were identified among 800 nursing schools in a 2016 survey. An aging faculty population, with a wave of retirements expected in coming years, is contributing to the shortage.

Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy said that the new doctoral program – the first in university history – reflects Wilkes’ commitment to meeting the nation’s educational needs.

“Our Ph.D. program in nursing continues our dedication to solving societal challenges,” Leahy stated. “There is a significant shortage of qualified faculty to teach the next generation of nurses and Wilkes is part of the solution.

“We have always been the institution that offers academic opportunity, and the creation of our first Ph.D. program is further proof of this enduring commitment.”

To learn more about the new nursing degree, visit