Campus Alert: Find the latest UMMS campus news and resources at

Search Close Search
Page Menu

Discover Nursing!

PhD Student Spotlight - Jennifer DiBenedetto

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Is a PhD Right For You?

The primary reason why I enrolled in a Ph.D. program was to learn how to adequately interpret and conduct research involving complementary therapies. I have been a Reiki practitioner for nearly five years; however, there is inadequate research validating its effectiveness as an alternative approach for hospitalized patients. The limited research that I have been able to find is biased or poorly executed. Throughout my life, I have personally experienced Reiki’s profound positive effects. I could not help but wonder why this practice is not thoroughly studied. The feedback that I have received whenever I have used Reiki, whether it is on a client or on a professional colleague, has always been so positive. Therefore, I felt compelled to learn more about research methods by pursuing a doctoral degree.  

Helping others through the use of complementary methods, rather than relying strictly on conventional medicine, is something that I thoroughly enjoy. This interest in complementary therapies has led me to open my own Reiki practice in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Many of my clients request Reiki to alleviate ailments, such as pain, anxiety, or stress. They often express their concern about taking certain medications or their side effects. I enjoy having the opportunity to relieve symptoms in a holistic approach without the use of medication. It has been a wonderful experience being able to offer patients an alternative or adjunctive treatment to Western medicine to help improve their quality of life. 

In the future, I hope that Reiki is adopted as an alternative method that can be incorporated into the traditional health care system in order to provide better health care. For this goal to become a reality, there first needs to be more scientific evidence supporting its validity and effectiveness. Through my work in the Ph.D. program, I hope to obtain the skills necessary to conduct more extensive research regarding the effectiveness of Reiki so that I can disseminate my findings to the health professions community. The faculty and staff at UMass Worcester have been incredibly open and supportive regarding my focus on alternative approaches to medicine. I truly appreciate all that they have done to support my research ideas and academic goals.  

The Application Process

The application process for a Ph.D. in nursing is very simple. After I acquired my Master’s degree in nursing from Framingham State University, I became eligible to enroll in the MSN to Ph.D. track offered at University of Massachusetts - Worcester (UMass Worcester) Graduate School of Nursing. A BS to Ph.D. option is also available at UMass Worcester for those students who have a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. To apply, the applicant must complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and submit those results to the school. In addition to the GRE, two letters of recommendation from doctoral-prepared nurses are required. They should be nurses who can attest to your potential for completing a Ph.D. program. Finally, a personal statement about the reason for Ph.D. study needs to be submitted.  

Upon completion of the application, the rest is in the hands of the Graduate Admission. The student can expect to hear about an invitation for a personal interview with Ph.D. program faculty to discuss your research ideas and career goals. Overall, the process is streamlined. UMass Worcester makes it easy to apply so that everyone with the desire and potential to complete a Ph.D. has an opportunity to meet with the admission faculty. My experience was a positive one in that I was able to apply without stress or significant financial burden. 

After Graduation

After graduating, I hope to conduct research that involves Reiki so that more data about it effectiveness as an alternative approach to medicine can be disseminated to the nursing community. My ultimate goal is to use my doctoral degree to help move forward the acceptance of Reiki and other complementary therapies in Western practice. I am confident that the Ph.D. program at UMass Worcester will give me the tools necessary to make my goals a reality. 

While continuing my work in the ICU at Saint Vincent Hospital, I intend to obtain a second job teaching nursing for undergraduate nursing students. I hope to share my experience with future nurses and to give them the tools they need to become future leaders in the nursing profession. I would also love to incorporate alternative coping strategies, such as meditations and mindfulness practices, to help students to alleviate test anxiety and allow them to perform at their optimal level. Undergraduate nursing programs are known to be stressful, so I hope to offer them comfort and support as they work hard to achieve their academic goals. I look forward to seeing what contributions I will make to the nursing profession. I am proud every day to be a member of this devoted and hardworking community.

About Jennifer DiBenedetto, MSN, RN-BC, RMT

Jennifer DiBenedetto, MSN, RN-BC, RMTI have had the pleasure of working at Saint Vincent Hospital on various medical-surgical wards for the past four years. Currently, I work in the intensive care unit (ICU). My role is primarily to provide care for the patients in the medical and surgical sections of the ICU. Therefore, I help to treat patients with a variety of conditions including acute myocardial infarction, acute respiratory failure, sepsis, and pneumonia. This position is, without a doubt, my niche because it allows me to have a close patient and family centered relationship. This position has allowed me to develop an even deeper level of critical thinking skills that I had not perfected when I was working on less-acute patient units.