New program helps nurses move forward, faster, with PhDs

Laren Riesche

Laren Riesche received the College of Nursing’s first Future of Nursing Scholars award, which includes financial support, mentoring and leadership development. Photo: Mark Mershon/UIC College of Nursing

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation wants to encourage nurses interested in going forward with advanced studies to start doctoral degrees earlier in their careers.

The UIC College of Nursing and incoming student Laren Riesche are happy to do their part.

The College of Nursing is one of 14 schools nationwide to receive a grant from the foundation’s Future of Nursing Scholars program, established to increase the number of nurses with Ph.D.s.

Riesche was awarded $75,000 from the foundation and $50,000 from the college to fund her research on maternal health and birth outcomes over a three-year Ph.D. program.

“I will look at the role of early life experiences and events,” said Riesche, who was a nurse in neonatal intensive care at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

“I will examine the environment the mother creates for her fetus and the impact this has on the outcomes and developmental programming — her health, diet and economic factors.”

The average age at which nurses get their Ph.D.s is 46, which is 13 years older than those in other fields.

Riesche, 28, plans to finish her degree just before her 31st birthday. She earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the Urbana-Champaign campus in 2008 and a master’s of science in nursing from DePaul in 2012.

She is project manager for Cynthia Fritschi, assistant professor of biobehavioral health science in the College of Nursing, whose research focuses on diabetes, fatigue and physical activity.

The Institute of Medicine has recommended that the United States double the number of nurses with doctorates. Fewer than 30,000, or 1 percent, of the nation’s more than 3 million nurses have doctoral degrees in nursing or a related field.


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