Background: The characteristics of nursing doctoral programs and the doctoral students' experience have not been thoroughly investigated. Hence, this study aimed to describe the characteristics of nursing doctoral programs in East and South East Asian (ESEA) countries and regions from the views of doctoral program coordinators, and to explore the students' experiences of and satisfaction with their doctoral nursing program.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted using two self-designed questionnaires, one focusing on PhD program coordinators and the other on doctoral students. Characteristics of the nursing doctoral programs focused on program characteristics, faculty characteristics, career pathways for graduates, and challenges for nursing doctoral education. Doctoral students' assessment of study experiences included quality of supervision, doctoral training programs, intellectual/cultural climate of institutions, general facilities/support, and the overall study experience and satisfaction.
Results: In the PhD coordinators survey, 46 institutions across nine ESEA countries and regions participated. More than half of nursing departments had academic members from other health science disciplines to supervise doctoral nursing students. The majority of graduates were holding academic or research positions in higher education institutions. Faculty shortages, delays in the completion of the program and inadequate financial support were commonly reported challenges for doctoral nursing education. In the students' survey, 193 doctoral students participated. 88.3% of the students were satisfied with the supervision they received from their supervisors; however, 79% reported that their supervisors 'pushed' them to publish research papers. For doctoral training programs, 75.5% were satisfied with their curriculum; but around half reported that the teaching training components (55.9%) and mobility opportunities (54.2%) were not included in their programs. For overall satisfaction with the intellectual and cultural climate, the percentages were 76.1 and 68.1%, respectively. Only 66.7% of the students felt satisfied with the facilities provided by their universities and nursing institutions.
Conclusion: Doctoral nursing programs in most of the ESEA countries value the importance of both research and coursework. Doctoral nursing students generally hold positive experiences of their study. However, incorporating more teaching training components, providing more opportunities for international mobility, and making more effort to improve research-related facilities may further enhance the student experience. There is also a need to have international guidelines and standards for quality indicators of doctoral programs to maintain quality and find solutions to global challenges in nursing doctoral education.