Guest Post – The Big, Bad, Terrible Dissertation Defense

Guest Contributor: Ashley Rivera, PhD, RN
See “About the Author” below

“The best thesis defense is a good thesis defense.” Retrieved from https://xkcd.com/1403/.
Comic available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

In my head, I built the entire day up to be a terror of being questioned for every decision I made throughout my study. All the prep-work from making draft revisions and polishing off the speech to accompany my slides did not prepare me for joy. My joy is not about the strength of my study or the loving support that my graduate school, Florida Atlantic University, bestowed upon me during my entire program. It’s about who showed up at my defense.

One of the first to arrive was an entry-level BSN student who had responded to the mass-dispersed open defense email sent out by the College of Nursing. When I was a student, I would probably have just dumped that email in the trash bin. The student who showed up truly felt that in nursing she could achieve anything, which was a refreshing sight to my battle-wounded soul from the years of micro-managing and counterintuitive policies that are experienced on the job. The memory of her being there is a reminder for me that there is a need to shine a light on the quiet strength that comes from being a nurse. This quiet strength is what guides nursing through the bad days, like when four call lights are going off and they all have to be answered in less than 3 minutes, or the code that just won’t end because nobody wants to tell mom her baby won’t be back. I didn’t see her leave, but I remember her clap and the light in her eyes at the end of the defense.

I didn’t think much of it when the crowd of fresh PhD students wandered in, after all, they were in school to do the very same thing. However, the feedback I received from them truly reinforced my passion for teaching. The best part was that the comments didn’t come from them directly, it came from the professor of Qualitative Research. As part of my defense, I explained my choice to use Charmaz’s constructive grounded theory by contrasting it with classic grounded theory and Straussian grounded theory. The professor was thrilled by the explanation I gave. She also stated that the PhD students indicated that my explanation was so clear that they now truly understood the differences between all three approaches to grounded theory. To me, that was the icing on the cake of such a momentous day. Their feedback is the start of my living my dream to inspire passion and clarity for research and theory in classes that so many students describe as the bane of their existence.

Defenses are an opportunity to inspire those who watch and fuel the passion of those who defend. This should be the goal at the end of a very long road in the PhD journey. I wouldn’t take a single step back, but the dissertation defense isn’t so big, bad, or terrible—in fact, it’s probably the most inspiring part of the whole PhD.

The newly minted,
Dr. Ashley Rivera

Left to right: Dr. Marlaine Smith, myself, Dr. Patricia Leihr, and Dr. Yash Bhagwanji

About Dr. Rivera

Ashley Rivera

Not known for being a wall-flower, I believe in the power of a positive attitude and a smile. I keep centered through my loving husband, my three rambunctious children and being outdoors in my organic garden. My practice experience includes Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Liver Transplant, Medical Surgical, High Risk Pregnancy, Diabetic Education, Telemetry, and Epilepsy Monitoring. I started my health care journey as an EMT, but came to love nursing for the continuation of care aspects. I have worked in both inpatient and outpatient at different stages of my nursing journey. I also have experience as adjunct faculty and as a research assistant. I entered the PhD program at Florida Atlantic University in August of 2015 and received a Jonas Scholarship in 2016. In my immediate future, I plan to continue working on getting my dissertation, “The Social Process of Caregiving in Fathers” published, and growing the resulting mid-range theory, “Caregiving in Fathers”. I will be presenting my recruitment methodology at the upcoming K.I.N.G Collaborative Research Conference in D.C. and, eventually, I hope to teach  and accept a full-time position teaching.

Happy Anniversary/Happy Birthday to Nursology.net!

We invite all of our visitors to join with us in developing this important resource!  Contact us with your interest and ideas!
This site is developed and managed solely by nursologist volunteers so our costs are minimal, but we welcome contributions to help assure the site’s future!!

Jacqueline Fawcett:

Jacqueline Fawcett

This is a very special blog, as we are celebrating the first anniversary/first birthday of the launch of nursology.net on September 18th. From a chronological developmental perspective, the website is transitioning from infancy to early childhood. However, given the amount of content already posted on this website, the weekly blogs, and the number of nursologists from many, many countries who have accessed the website, I dare to declare that we never were infants and now are mature adults! I am especially grateful to Peggy Chinn, our outstandingly superb webmaster, for her fabulous and steadfast work to create the website, the forms for submission of content and other items, many of the weekly blogs, and everything else that is needed to maintain the vibrancy of nursology.net. I also am very grateful to all members of our management team, whose interest in and enthusiasm for preserving our discipline has fostered so much success in one short year. In addition, I am very grateful to all other nursologists who have contributed content to the website, to those who have written blogs, and to those who have added comments to the blogs. I continue to welcome all nursologists to nursology.net—to view what is on the website, to contribute content, to submit blogs, and otherwise share your thoughts about nursology and all the wonderful work you are doing. The remainder of this blog is contributions from some of the members of our management team; I thank them for sharing their thoughts on the occasion of nursology.net’s first anniversary/birthday.

Peggy Chinn

Peggy Chinn:

When we first conceived of the website that we decided to call “nursology.net,” I certainly never imagined that the site would grow and develop as it has in just the first year! First, even though I have been immersed during my entire career in scholarship around the development of nursing knowledge, I honestly had no idea of the vastness, diversity, and widespread commitment that nurse scholars have demonstrated over the 50=plus years of nursing knowledge development. Those of us who have contributed to the development of the website knew one another professionally, and we all had deep respect for the scholarship that each of us brought to the table. But once we put all of our insights and expertise together in the tangible reality of the website, lo and behold, what we had was much larger than any of us imagined! During the past several months, I have had the opportunity to provide live “deep dives” into the website to demonstrate what is actually here – and with each occasion, everyone who participates leaves amazed at the true vastness of information that is here! As we look forward to the coming year, we will continue to add to the information in each section of the website, but our main focus will be to develop more thoroughly the “Exemplar” sections. After all, each of us involved in the site are nurses first – so our primary concern is using the theoretical ideas, our scholarship, to inform, shape, and re-shape our practices! We believe that nursing perspectives are necessary and valuable – that we offer dimensions that are respected by other disciplines. However, if we do not bring our perspectives as a central concern to each of our practices, something that is extremely valuable will be missing. Nursing perspectives do make a difference in practice, research, education, policy, and quality improvement – and each of the exemplar sections will continue to grow to demonstrate more clearly what that difference is!

Marlaine Smith:

Cheers to nursology.net on its one year anniversary! In only one year, nurses throughout the world have accessed nursology.net, offering us a valuable resource for learning more about the knowledge within the discipline. It is amazing to explore and discover the rich contributions, detailing the development and application of nursing theories of all levels in practice, education, and policy. Thank you to Drs. Peggy Chinn and Jacqueline Fawcett for their leadership in launching and advancing this website and thanks to all the contributors. Here’s to many more productive years of growing nursology!

Danny Willis:

When I pause to celebrate the one year anniversary/birthday of nursology.net, what comes up for me is a sense of hope for the future! Nursology is the substantive perspective that makes the difference in human and environment wellbecomng and alleviation of human suffering. Nursology addresses What Matters Most!” The philosophical, conceptual, theoretical, and empirical contributions that have shaped the discipline and profession are reflected at nursology.net. For nursologists everywhere, nursology.net provides a venue to be engaged in the knowledge endeavor, discerning clear direction should we get distracted. nursology.net is a wonderful resource for the world right here and right now, at our fingertips !! I look forward to continuing to participate in the evolution.

Dorothy Jones:

Nursology.net has become a global phenomenon, offering nurses from around the world immediate access to nursing knowledge and historical developments in nursing theory, education, research, and practice. When I presented the site to doctoral students in Spain, one student noted, “Having access to this site (for free) not only exposes us to information we do not have in our libraries but helps to connect us to our science in a new way. Thank you”. The continued development of nursology, with attention to presentations [in] other languages, will continue to grow the site and expand nurses’ ability to access knowledge and increase disciplinary dialogue around the world.

Dr. Eustace

Rosemary Eustace:

As we celebrate the one year anniversary of nursology.net,, we acknowledge the contributions of many of our founders and nursing scholars to evidence-based nursing (EBN). We call upon our fellow nurses around the world to advocate for the future of nursing that advances nursing science by developing, utilizing, and evaluating EBN to create a culture of health, promote social and financial justice, and increase access and responsiveness to evidence-based health care services.

Margaret Dexheimer Pharris:

Nursology.net has gotten off to a running start! In the past year, nursology.net leaders helped shape and participated in the 50th anniversary nursing theory conference at Case Western Reserve University (see Peggy Chinn’s conference keynote); several nursing journal editors have written about nursology.net in their journals; the American Academy of Nursing’s (AAN) Nursing Theory-Guided Practice Expert Panel has grown to be one of AAN’s largest expert panels; and, there have been over a dozen major nursology related conferences throughout the world. This resurgence of commitment to nursology practice and research rooted in the knowledge of the discipline provides a springboard propelling nursologists to ensure that nursing theory is woven through national nursing education guidelines for all professional levels, that every nurse can clearly articulate the difference that nursology makes because of its theories and philosophical perspectives, and that in the U.S., the National Institute for Nursing Research (NINR) be directed by a nursologist who understands the importance of grounding all NINR funded research in nursing theories and philosophies. These and many other efforts in which nursologists are engaging serve to holistically and equitably enhance the human experience of health. The year 2020 holds great promise for nursology to reach new heights!

Deborah Lindell:

Happy first anniversary to Nursology.net! This site serves a valuable service to all nurses by raising awareness of the essential role nursing knowledge plays in the discipline of nursing. It provides in-depth, understandable information about nursing knowledge in a variety of formats. I especially like the Guardians of the Discipline and the blog which promotes dialogue about current topics in nursing knowledge. I’ve integrated Nursology.net as a required resource in my DNP and MSN theory courses.