Getting a nursing doctorate “is about reaching the pinnacle of nursing excellence,” says Sharrica Miller, Cal State Fullerton assistant professor of nursing.
Why would anyone get a Ph.D. in nursing?
That’s a question every doctoral nursing student hears, Sharrica Miller told a cheering audience at her graduation ceremony at UCLA School of Nursing this year. Miller, Cal State Fullerton assistant professor of nursing, pointed to Sylvia Trent-Adams, then-acting surgeon general of the United States – a nurse with a Ph.D.
Getting a nursing doctorate “is about reaching the pinnacle of nursing excellence,” Miller told the UCLA audience.
“It’s about being an expert, an advocate, a leader, an educator, an executive. It’s about having the flexibility to work anywhere from a corporate office to a crime scene,” she said. “It’s about having the ability to do everything from writing textbooks to designing health care technology. It’s about moving up in our profession from being caregivers to decision makers, from being nurses that once complied with policies to policy makers.”
Nursing has been a passion of Miller’s since she worked as a certified nursing assistant in high school.
“It was a natural fit. I considered pre-medicine (when going to college), but nursing and working with patients was closer to my heart,” said Miller, who has served as a clinical nurse, primarily in pediatrics, at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, CHOC, Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Long Beach and Premier Nursing Registry.
Miller holds a master’s in nursing from Cal State Long Beach and a doctorate in nursing from UCLA. She previously served as an assistant professor at the American University of Health Sciences.
Miller recently answered some questions from CSUF News Service on nursing:
Q. What inspired you to go into teaching nursing?
A. I took part in a mentorship program during my undergraduate studies (the Student Nursing Immersion Program at Howard University, where she earned her bachelor’s in nursing). It was my first taste of teaching, and I knew that was for me. I worked four years saving to go back to school with the goal of teaching others.
Q. What are your research interests?
A. As a doctoral student at UCLA, I grew familiar with research and developed my interest in adolescent/young adults and their health and well-being.
My focus has been on transitional-age foster youth, typically age 18 to 26, when they transition into adulthood — how they utilize health services, how often they use emergency care. My study involves comparing transitional foster care youth and young adults who hadn’t been in foster care.
What I’ve found is that these young people, because of their situation of very often going between multiple homes, are uneducated about the health care system and what they need to do to get the care they need. At 18, they are out of the foster care system and may be without health cards, birth certificates, medical records — and have no clue how to get them. So, they use more emergency services and often wait until they are sicker to seek treatment. They also have more issues with mental health issues.
As their “parents,” we all need to look at this situation and to understand and help with their needs. That’s why I specifically chose to teach here at Cal State Fullerton. I definitely love our Guardian Scholars program (a campus scholarship program for college-bound students exiting the foster care system). I have signed up to serve as a mentor and am very excited to be involved in this effort.
Q. What do you hope students get from your classes/teaching?
A. I hope that my students learn that their impact on health care and the world extends beyond the bedside. I try always to add that into my classes — how they should think not just about that first job. To not limit their career and to see the impact that they can make in their field.
Q. What do you see as a misconception about nursing?
A. I spoke about this at my graduation from UCLA: Why would anyone get a Ph.D. in nursing? The public doesn’t know the importance, the need for nurses to extend their education further and to explore other avenues in the field of health care beyond the traditional care we provide.
Reporting on the interesting research and stimulating events at Cal State Fullerton is right up Wendy’s journalistic alley. A San Francisco native, Wendy earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Stanford and a master’s in journalism from UC Berkeley. After working in the news offices at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC San Francisco Medical Center, she became a business/technology reporter for the Puget Sound Business Journal and served as business editor at the Daily Breeze before moving to copy editing and working for the Seattle Times. She joined the Register in 2003, where she was a team leader on the copy desk until early 2017. She teaches copy editing at Chapman University part-time, has two grown children and lives in downtown Anaheim, where she can walk to yoga and good coffee.
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