New Building, Ph.D. Program for Nursing

October 1, 2006
Under one roof: new School of Nursing building

Under one roof: new School of Nursing building. Les Todd

On a late summer day, Jody Clipp, professor and associate dean of research at Duke's School of Nursing, jiggled the door handle of her new third-floor office, trying the key in the lock for the first time. She opened the door and, as the lights came on automatically, smiled.

It had been a very busy summer, not only for Clipp, with her research and other obligations, but also for the Duke School of Nursing, which this semester unveils its new Trent Drive headquarters and welcomes to campus an inaugural class of doctoral students. The changes coincide with the school's seventy-fifth anniversary.

For years, nursing faculty members, administrators, and students have shuttled back and forth between the school's main building on Trent Drive, the adjacent Hanes House, rented space on Ninth Street, and the Trajectories of Aging Care Center in Duke Hospital South. The new 59,000-square-foot School of Nursing building, located on Trent Drive next door to the old building, provides the school with a more centralized home that also unites it, aesthetically, with the rest of campus.

The new, environment-friendly building includes faculty and administrative offices, seminar rooms, classrooms, a lecture hall, two state-of-the-art laboratories, and a glass atrium for casual studying, dining, and special events. Its main entrance is through an impressive stone tower. Like many of Duke's new buildings, its interior boasts lounge space and comfortable seating at the intersections of hallways aimed at promoting informal communication among faculty members and students.

"Many of our students do not know faculty [members] outside of the immediate few who teach in their degree program," says Catherine L. Gilliss B.S.N. '71, dean of the nursing school and the Duke Health System's vice-chancellor for nursing affairs. "For the first time, many of our students are learning about all the expert resources we have at the school." The old nursing building, meanwhile, is being remodeled to house the school's Office of Research Affairs. That space will provide "for the first time in the school's history, a research-intensive context, filled with active projects and teams, research-management activity, conference rooms, and testing facilities," Clipp says.

The introduction of the Ph.D. program, which will complement the existing master's and accelerated bachelor's degree programs, marks a big step for the school, giving it a platform to compete with the best institutions in the country for nurse scientists and research funding. The program, chaired by Ruth Anderson, professor of nursing, will focus on "trajectories of care and care systems," a theme designed to draw on the major strengths of the school's research faculty. Adds Gilliss, "we will prepare academic scientists who are interested in problems of chronic illness and symptom management over time and those who will study the impact of the care system on the outcomes of those with chronic conditions."

The program will be run through the Graduate School. In addition to nursing coursework and an academic dissertation, doctoral candidates will be required to take a number of courses in other fields, such as psychology and business, depending on their areas of academic interest. Students will also benefit from close ties with Duke Medical Center.

"We are preparing scientists who will study clinical problems," Gillis says, "so being a part of this world-class medical center allows us to collaborate with other clinicians and scientists who share our interests." The medical center, she says, is "rich with clinical data that will allow us to study the environments in which care is provided so that we can better understand how the environmental factors influence care outcomes."

Clipp, as associate research dean, is excited about the possibilities that arise when nurse scientists and students are brought together, as they will be, both literally and figuratively, by the new school and program. "As we move forward, we will encourage more activity in the areas of health-services research, global health and health disparities, and translational nursing science, which aims to move evidence from nursing science to actual practice or care improvements."

"The synergy," she says, "is palpable."