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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.

Our Scholars

  • “I’m searching for ways to help people navigate increasingly complex healthcare systems that don’t involve increased co-pays and cost sharing.”

  • “My long-term goal is to create evidence-based programs to reduce health disparities among vulnerable populations in the United States as well as in developing countries.”

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 can therefore 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.

Hillman Scholar News


Open to incoming accelerated BSN students and current traditional BSN students in their sophomore or junior year, this unique program incorporates interdisciplinary education with research career development and close mentoring. The program focuses on innovation, integration, and impact.

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 .