Doctoral Programme Nursing Science

The Maastricht - Graz - Bern Doctoral Programme Nursing Science is a joint doctoral programme which began in 2000. This doctoral programme provides nurses with a structure to prepare a dissertation. It enables nurses with a master degree to become a Scholar in Nursing Science.

Research is performed in the research fields of the departments which are offering the programme. Therefore, all projects focus on health problems from a nursing perspective and contribute to nursing knowledge via the use of clinical research methodologies.

The thesis is usually a compilation of articles published in and / or submitted to international scientific journals. A doctoral thesis is equivalent to approximately five (Maastricht) or four (Graz) articles.

Students will finish their programme either at the University of Maastricht or at the Medical University of Graz. In Maastricht, the title is “Doctor aan de Universiteit Maastricht (PhD)”. In Graz the title is “doctor rerum curae”, which is read as “Doctor of Nursing Science”.

The programme consists of four meetings per year, which alternate between Graz, Bern and Maastricht. During these meetings, the students participate in lectures focusing on methodological issues in qualitative and quantitative research. The students discuss theoretical, methodological and practical problems that they are encountering in the course of their doctoral projects. They work collaboratively in workshops on topics which are relevant to their PhD. They also further their knowledge regarding scientific writing and the revision process in group sessions. The doctoral students present their research findings at national and international conferences. The language in the programme is English.

Students from Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany as well as other European countries, are currently participating in this doctoral programme. Due to its international structure, this doctoral programme in Nursing Science has, since its inception, facilitated international networking.

Are you interested in joining the programme? Please contact a professor at one of the cooperating universities:
- Prof. Dr. Sabine Hahn
- Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ruud Halfens
- Univ.-Prof. Dr. Christa Lohrmann

Doctoral Programme Nursing Science

Profiles of current PhD students and their projects at Bern University of Applied Sciences


Friederike J.S. Thilo, MScN, RN

Friederike is PhD student in Nursing Science at the Maastricht University, the Netherlands, and research associate at Bern University of Applied Sciences. She is an experienced registered nurse and worked nine years at Centre hospitalier universitaire vaudois (CHUV), in Lausanne.

The topic of her doctoral thesis is the use and the non-use of health related technologies, using the example of fall detection technologies, in community-dwelling older people. Friederike explores factors related to the use and non-use of fall detection technologies from the perspective of older people, relatives, nurses and general practitioners. Moreover, she investigates the needs, preferences, usability and feasibility aspects of a fall detection sensor linked to a smartphone application. Persons aged 75 years and older are involved in the development and testing of this fall detection technology.

For more information about Friederikes’ research projects and publications link.

If you have any questions regarding the PhD programme please contact Friederike by mail.

Birgit Heckemann, MSc, RN

Birgit is an experienced registered nurse and PhD student in Nursing Science at the University of Maastricht, the Netherlands. The topic of her doctoral studies is aggression in general hospital nursing – more specifically, the prevention and management of patient and visitor aggression with a focus on the needs of nursing staff and nurse managers (PERoPA Project).

Birgit also works as a research associate and was previously employed in Lyon, France (Registrat MAPI - late phase trials) and at Gothenburg University, Sweden (Centre for Person Centred Care). She currently works at the unit of Applied Research & Development in Nursing at the Health Division of Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH. Birgit is a peer-reviewer for several journals (e.g. BMJ Open, Journal of Nursing Management, QuPuG - Journal für Qualitative Forschung in Pflege- und Gesundheitswissenschaft) and she has published in international peer-reviewed journals. Birgit was a member of the organizing committee of the EDCNS 2016.

As a researcher, Birgit is particularly interested in mastering the art of qualitative research.

If you have any questions regarding the PhD programme please contact Birgit by mail.

You can also find Birgit on LinkedIn and ResearchGate.


Karin Anne Peter, MScN, RN

Karin Anne Peter is a clinical nurse specialist at a university hospital, a Research Associate in the area of health care at the Bern University of Applied Sciences and a Phd student at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands.

The topic of her Phd thesis is psychosocial work-related stress for health care professionals in general hospitals in Switzerland. The aim of this Phd project is to determine psychosocial work-related stressors for health care professionals (nurses, doctors, medical-technical professions) in general hospitals in all parts of Switzerland (German, French, Italian), to assess strategies to prevent and reduce these factors and to improve the psychosocial health for Swiss health professionals.

For more information about Karins’ research projects and publications link.

If you have any questions regarding the PhD programme please contact Karin by mail.

European Doctoral Conference in Nursing Science (EDCNS)


The European Doctoral Conference in Nursing Science (EDCNS) is an international nursing conference for PhD students. The conference is organised alternately by PhD students from Maastricht University and the Medical University of Graz, in cooperation with the Bern University of Applied Sciences. The conference provides the opportunity for PhD students to:

  • meet and build contacts with colleagues all over Europe
  • give a presentation about a part of their thesis
  • share experiences and information in the area of nursing research
  • learn what is currently happening in nursing science in Europe
  • meet the profs!

Visit the EDCNS Website