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BSN-PhD (Hillman Scholars)

The Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation is an accelerated integrated BSN-to-PhD program designed to produce the next generation of nurse innovators dedicated to making health care more effective, patient-centered, and equitable.

In 2010, Penn Nursing partnered with the Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation  to develop a new opportunity for scholars. Today, the school is proud to be one of only three in the country offering this unique program.

Featured Scholar

The Hillman Experience

The Hillman Scholars In Nursing Innovation program is comprised of several distinctive components.

Together, they create a unique academic experience that launches purpose-driven research careers and fosters leaders committed to health care transformation.

Key Program Components

An Accelerated, Integrated BSN-to-PhD Curriculum

A Hillman Scholar is both a BSN and PhD student at the same time and therefore can take graduate courses while still completing a BSN. Scholars seamlessly continue into graduate coursework, enabling them to skip the Master’s degree and complete the PhD in three years.

Undergraduate Research Immersion

Scholars link scientific inquiry with real-world innovation by joining research teams that are identifying solutions to challenges in clinical care. Through this experience, they learn how new models of care are tested and observe PhD-prepared nurse scientists in action.

Structured Mentoring

Hillman Scholars beginning in their undergraduate programs and extending through the completion of the PhD are mentored by dedicated senior faculty from nursing and other disciplines who have successful and impactful programs of research, and records of leadership and innovations in care. These relationships provide a unique level of interdisciplinary support for scholars’ professional growth.

Clinical Fellowship

The Hillman program offers an optional clinical immersion fellowship for scholars who want to advance their nursing practice expertise after they earn their nursing license. These unique six-month clinical immersions offer new nurses the opportunity to become members of the professional staff in top-ranked clinical institutions where they care for individual patients and learn first-hand about care delivery. The experience exposes Scholars to real-life health care delivery and shapes how they think about and develop new innovations in care.

The Hillman Community

Hillman Scholars join a vibrant community of peers and faculty committed to their collective development. Scholars at different sites connect in-person at annual meetings (held in conjunction with AcademyHealth, the national interdisciplinary organization that promotes health care improvement) and virtually, through cross-site webinars and other digital platforms. Scholars can access research and travel funds to further their development as nurse innovators. An alumni network helps sustain these professional and personal connections, even after graduation.

Bi-Weekly Scholars’ Seminars

These multi-disciplinary seminars focus on innovation and feature lively, Scholar-led discussions, visits from thought leaders and scientists, and ongoing engagement with peers and faculty. Seminars occur every other week.

Hillman Scholars in Nursing Innovation Doctoral Student Handbook Addendum

Click here to read the Doctoral Student Handbook Addendum put together for the Hillman Scholars in Nursing Innovation Program. There is valuable information in this addendum. All Hillman Scholars are required to know and abide by the state policies in the University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing BSN Handbook, and PhD handbook.

Hillman Scholars News

  • Hillman Scholars Use Design Thinking for Health Framework to Focus Their Research Goals

    During the summer two Penn Hillman Scholars, Cassis Boateng (Penn ’26) and Kierra Foley (Penn ’23), were awarded funding to complete innovation projects that consisted of them reviewing the online Design Thinking for Health course and applying the framework to the health challenge and community that is the focus of their respective dissertation research. The goal of the Design Thinking framework is to generate innovative solutions through creative problem solving while completing the five stages: Empathy, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.

  • Announcing Dr. Peggy Compton as the New UPenn Hillman Program Director

    Peggy Compton, PHD, RN, FAAN, will take over full time as Program Director of the University of Pennsylvania Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation starting July 1, 2021.

  • Doulas Help Families Meet Breastfeeding Goals

    Research from the School of Nursing shows that these support professionals can be another tool to improve outcomes for newborns and parents.


The Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation is open to current traditional BSN students in their sophomore or junior year as well as incoming accelerated BSN (ABSN) students . Incoming ABSN students apply to the ABSN program and the Hillman Scholars Program at the same time and can be offered admission to the ABSN program as well as the Hillman Scholars Program, or just the ABSN program alone. 

Applicants to the Program must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States.

If accepted into the Program, Hillman Scholars must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above. 

How to apply

To be eligible for the Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation, you must be either a current Penn Nursing BSN student in your sophomore or junior year, or admitted through our Accelerated BSN program.

For details on our application process, see the Admissions section .