45 Minutes with our Homegrown Doctoral Nursing Graduates

 By Jerome Babate /Claudine Rhea Sun

The Greek philosopher Socrates once said that, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel”. These same words enchant the minds and the hearts of our three homegrown doctoral graduates to pursue higher forms of knowledge and continue learning in this fast-paced world. There unrelenting passion for research and the academe has led them to their post graduate degrees today.

This week, we had the pleasure of interviewing three nurses with doctoral degrees namely Pearl Cuevas, RN, PhD who obtained her doctorate in nursing at UP College of Nursing, Annie Jacalan, RN, PhD and Chanell Concepcion, RN, PhD. The latter were graduates of Silliman University’s doctorate program in nursing.

Let us learn from their experiences in post graduate researches and their future plans.

Can you share with us your postgraduate (doctoral) research experience in terms of research supervision and access to research facilities?

PC: My dissertation is about a nurse who manages an adult day care program for old Filipinos. In my research, I did 4 phases of nursing interventions using a mixed method design. My research experience opened my eyes to the thrill in discovering new nursing knowledge and the needed humility that goes with it. The results of my study made me excited and appreciate research in a new level. It took four months for my research to be reviewed by the ethics board but it was worth it. The reviewers really drove me towards excellence. My dissertation adviser, Dr. Cora Anonuevo is an excellent mentor as well. Along with my panel members – Dr. Josephine Agapito, Dr. Shelley Dela Vega, Dr. Teresita Barcelo, Dr. Araceli Balabagno and my dissertation critic, Dr. Letty Kuan – helped in shaping my paper to reach a nursing model status that will be helpful for older Filipinos.

Pearl Cuevas, RN, Ph.D
The research facilities in the University were adequate and the librarians were very supportive and helpful with all my research needs. The search engines were available for my research consumption. In terms of funding, I was awarded four research grants namely, the CEU Academic Council Study Grant, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Dissertation Grant, the University of the Philippines (UP) Graduate Office Grant and the UP National Institutes of Health Grant.

AJ: Our foreign professors expected a lot from us including important course works in the university library that entails access to online databases for scholarly journals. Fortunately, the university was and still is subscribed to many online journals. The professors facilitated the subscription and the university had to comply with these requirements. The required reading materials in our courses were both from books and online journals but I am grateful that as one of the university with the largest collection of academic books and huge cyber rooms, Silliman University Library gave me the opportunity to utilize different scholarly resources and access online journals for the first time. As a novice researcher, my experience in utilizing online databases was really improved.

Research supervision on my dissertation was rated on a professional scale. This means that as a student I needed to aim for excellence because my professor emphasized that a doctoral student, I needed to exhibit a high degree of intellectuality. I can still remember my lack of advanced knowledge on research especially on power analysis of my sample size. While I was attending my quantitative research subject, I realized how inadequate my knowledge was on research way back in my masters degree program. But, I did not stop there. I took it as a challenge to read more books and understand research in the same wavelength with my Australian professor and adviser, Dr. David Arthur.

The geographical constraints between my professors and I urged me to constantly use the internet as our only tool for communication. All the corrections of my dissertation were done through emails and the process made me learn the pearls and pitfalls of writing a critical review of literature. Oh! It was awesome. You can just imagine how at my age I struggled with technology to finish my dissertation.
In terms of finances while doing my dissertation, I did not really spend so much because after my very efficient statistician treated my data through SPSS, I did the extraction to organize the data into tables as well as the encoding. As a summary, there is no measure on how much you can earn your degree but the most important factor is your dedication and commitment to finish it with quality learning guided with quality education. This is what Silliman University never fails to achieve and offer to its graduate and post graduate students. Lastly, I thank our God Almighty who is always there for me.

CC: My doctoral dissertation was a hermeneutic phenomenological research on the lived experience of non-Chinese patients being cared for by Chinese nurses in Beijing, China. I explored what being cared for means to the research participants guided by Van Manen’s approach to researching lived experiences. I had an awesome research adviser – Dr. Rozzano Locsin who ably supervised my research project. The result affirmed the universality of care across cultures. Although there were certain cultural nuances in the care received by non-Chinese patients, the caring process was still a celebration of knowing persons as caring.

What is your experience in pursuing the highest degree in the nursing profession?

AJ: This is the reason why I took up the degree on Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing. There was only one factor that encouraged me to study at Silliman University, that is, to motivate the university administration to pursue and be serious about opening this program since it will be the first university in Visayas and Mindanao to offer PhD in Nursing.

Annie Jacalan, RN, Ph.D
Being an alumna of the said university (where I earned my Bachelor of Science in nursing degree) I considered it as a calling for me to really find any and all possible opportunity to speak with the university president and assure him that the university will have a student who will enroll in the said program.

As a pioneering program, we started with only three (3) students and we had local and international (United States of America and Hongkong) professors. This same diversity opened our eyes to differences in methodology, grading systems, and requirement. Foreign professors graded us according to the lessons we learned and the way we learned each task. Requirements were graded only when we have submitted the things expected from us. This means that there will be several revisions of our requirements until the professors are satisfied with what we passed.

In terms of classroom participation, a lot was expected from us. We needed to exhibit a high degree of reasoning. It was not easy to obtain this degree because you need patience, compassion, time management and above all, the love for the nursing profession. I did not regret obtaining this degree because it brought me back to the very essence of nursing. As nurses, we are bounded with philosophy to anchor our definition of nursing. Enrolling to this degree can serve as a wake-up call for those who focused only on borrowing perspectives from other professions.

There are so many experiences for me to share but I guess I will consume your entire page in the blog. At any rate I graduated alone as a pioneering student last March 2010 after 9 years since the professional subjects offered for us to enroll were only every summer in the US.

What is next after your doctorate?

PC: After my acquiring my doctorate degree in nursing, I have disseminated the findings of my study to stakeholders at the Gerontology Nurses Association of the Philippines National Convention and to nursing scholars in Australia through last year’s International Conference on Qualitative Research in Nursing and in Health. This year, I plan to apply for a post doctoral grant and continue further studies in gerontology care.

CC:  I had the privilege of presenting the results of my study at the caring conference in Kyoto, Japan and at the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society’s International Research Congress in Hong Kong. Right now, I am preparing to present my presentation on the experience of Filipino and Chinese new graduate nurses at the ICN International Conference in Seoul Korea this coming June 2015. I am currently supervising a doctoral (PhD in Nursing) student who is developing her dissertation proposal on healthy older persons. I also teach qualitative research and Qualitative Research Technology using NVivo to doctoral students at Silliman University. Two of the challenges in post-graduate research are access to research journals as well as access to research grants. I am glad I have access to on-line libraries but many of my students do not. Research grants may be available in various agencies but you have to deal with some competition.

Chanell Concepcion, RN, Ph.D
I am working on publishing my researches. It should have been done yesterday but there were so many distractions. Also, I wish I could embark on a formal post-doctoral study but I think that will have to be my future goal. For now, I am committed to helping doctoral students to appreciate the wonderful world of qualitative research and how it compliments with quantitative research. I have done a number of quantitative researches before – especially when I was at the Social Development Research Center in De La Salle University (Taft), but I have come to appreciate qualitative research in exploring many of the nursing phenomena that needs to be understood.