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DNP Discussions

The DNP Capstone

Published July 2, 2010 10:15 AM by Mai Kung

Here at the DNP Answers blog we take your questions about the DNP and answer them as best we can. This post is written by blogger Mai Kung, NP, a recent DNP graduate.

 Q: What is a capstone project, and what would be an example of one?

A: A final DNP project is often referred to as a “capstone” project. It is a final project that demonstrates synthesis and mastery of an advanced specialty within nursing practice by a student. The emphasis of the DNP education is on translating research into practice, applying research in decision-making, and implementing viable clinical innovations to change practice. Therefore, the DNP final project’s focus is more on evidence-based practice as compared to a dissertation, which is a research-based project. The aim of a DNP project is to improve practice and/or patient outcome; furthermore, it serves to lay the groundwork for future scholarship.

According to the Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice, “One example of the final DNP product might be a practice portfolio that includes the impact or outcomes due to practice and documents the final practice synthesis and scholarship. Another example of a final DNP product is a practice change initiative. This may be represented by a pilot study, a program evaluation, a quality improvement project, an evaluation of a new practice model, a consulting project, or an integrated critical literature review. Additional examples of a DNP final product could include manuscripts submitted for publication, systemic review, research utilization project, practice topic dissemination, substantive involvement in a larger endeavor, or other practice project.” (October 2006, available at, p.20)

Choosing a topic for a DNP project is often stressful for a student; however, in reality options for capstone projects are endless. When choosing a topic for a DNP project, the student can be creative by utilizing evidence-based process by:

  1. Formulating a well developed question;
  2. Identifying evidence based resources to answer the question(integrated systematic review of literature);
  3. Assessing validity of the resources using evidence;
  4. Applying the evidence;
  5. Re-evaluating the application and identify areas for improvement (available at:

These projects need to be individualized to the students’ areas of interest/specialty/expertise and projects should demonstrate assimilation of knowledge at a doctoral level. Here are some specific examples of DNP projects from my program:

  • A change project to increase the uptake of influenza vaccination in healthcare personnel at a college health practice setting. Barriers and facilitators to influenza vaccination were identified by using a preintervention questionnaire survey. Interventions were planned based on findings of the preintervention survey, then implemented. The effectiveness of these interventions was assessed by utilizing a postintervention survey.
  • A quality improvement project to improve appropriate handling of hand trauma to avoid delay of care. Over 2000 consults and notes from ER/urgent care departments were reviewed to assess adherence to guidelines for handling/referral of hand traumas. Factors associated with lack of adherence to treatment guidelines were identified, interventions were implemented and outcomes were assessed.
  • An assessment of client and provider satisfaction levels related to the use of electronic health records. One goal was to obtain client and provider preferences for specific services of an internet web portal for future electronic communication in a pediatric primary care practice.
  • A review of the history of Florida Nurses’ Association to describe the impact of professional association advocacy efforts for the past 100 years.
  • A project that was part of a community effort in planning, organizing and implementing a clinic designed to provide health care for indigent, low-income and uninsured residents of a Florida county.
  • Identification of perceived barriers to prenatal care for women in a county that ranked at the bottom of all Florida counties for women obtaining prenatal care within the first trimester.

Doctors of Nursing Practice, LLC also has project ideas at

Editor's note: Comment below to continue discussion on this topic, or send new questions to      

posted by Mai Kung


I am almost done with my core classes (I have one more to go). I am stuck in which topic to address in my DPI project . I work with geriatric patients in a nursing home providing primary care services. I need help with my topic.


Irene Machuki, Geriatrics - NP, Nursing home January 1, 2017 10:49 PM
West Palm Beach FL

I currently finished my core coursework for my DNP. I have a Jan 2017 deadline for a DNP Practicum Project. I have had a terrible run finding a DNP preceptor. Initially I was going to focus my project on Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness and Nursing Assessment Scales, but that preceptor fell through. Then all my coursework began to discuss Lean Manufacturing (Six Sigma) Implementation in Healthcare to increase hospital throughput. I am still very passionate about that, but have recently changed career paths from Quality Management to Nursing Education. Now I am stuck on this whole project idea. Does anyone have any ideas on how I could focus on Healthcare Systems Leadership (which is my DNP Track) and Education that incorporates Lean Principles. I was thinking a lot about competencies and how they don't truly validate competency as I see staff just signing off on the competencies saying they know it. It's a huge conundrum within my practice having over 298 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that require competency validation for 38 employees. The education is never ending and at most suffering from effectiveness due to pure volume.

Ann Burns, , Nurse Educator Department of Veteran Affairs November 7, 2016 3:43 PM

Looking for capstone project ideas. I am an FNP student and currently work in a Neuro Trauma ICU.  I wanted to do something with our clinic where patients follow up post TBIs, etc.

Jennifer Fajt, Neuro Trauma ICU - Sr Prof Staff Nurse, UPMC Presby August 15, 2016 4:35 PM
Pittsburgh PA

I work in Neuro ICU as an APRN. Any suggestions for my DNP capstone project.


jocey, ICU - aprn June 10, 2016 9:57 AM

I am looking for some help with DNP project ideas. Currently working urology and would like to get some topic in connection with that.

Thank you

Jaisy, Urology - NP January 15, 2016 11:55 PM

I am currently starting my DNP program in July , however, I am not sure which DNP project that I should choose. I work in a Family Practice area. I am looking for ideas in Women's healthcare and/or Risk management improvement.

JoeAnn Jackson, Nursing - RN, University of I May 3, 2015 2:20 PM
Chicago IL

Hi all started my DNP turned in my PICOT Question on English only Vs. patient native language... leading to confusion and surgical time delay!!! I am running into formalities and fine lines how. Looking for ideas on how to formulate PICOT question in operating room focusing on surgical delay.....any ideas anyone will be appreciate it.

Sara APN

Sara, APN April 12, 2015 9:24 PM
moonachie NJ

I am a CRNA desperately trying to figure out what to do for my Capstone project.  I have had several ideas but they involved extensive testing.  I need ideas for a project that does not involve IRB review and does not require surveys etc to test the outcome.  Thanks for your help.

Jan, Anesthesia - CRNA December 27, 2014 5:54 AM
Baltimore MD

This is an awesome site. I am currently applying to an DNP program and in the process of planning my Capstone project. I currently work in an Internal Medicine Practice as well as in a Rural Hosp as a hospitalist NP. Most of the patients who are in our private practice are are under Medicare and some private insurance. In my role as a hospitalist NP the majority of the patients we see are uninsured and have no physician. The latter I'm sure, is a big problem in most cities. I am looking for ideas on which way to go with my Capstone project. With the new healthcare reform, I was wondering how this will impact these patients. The problem with these patients is they are unemployed, have little or no resources and will not be able to purchase the the new healthcare under the government, therefore no physician follow-up with after discharge. Any ideas would be helpful. Thanks

Tammie, Primary Care/NP Hospitalist - FNP, Internal Medicine Practice/Upson Regional Medical December 7, 2013 6:44 PM
Zebulon GA

I am just starting to get ideas for my capstone project on femoral nerve blocks on total knees and the increase risk of falls.  I am not sure how to formulate the question or go any further with this program at this time.  Could you please give me an idea.

Debbie, orthopedic - RN December 5, 2013 6:49 AM
Cincinnati OH

I am about to start the BSN-DNP program in August.  I am already thinking of Capstone ideas.  I am currently working with brain injuries but interested in all areas of nursing.  

Anna , Neuro - Nurse Supervisor July 23, 2013 7:26 PM

I'm starting my DNP program and I'm looking for sugesstion for a capstone project that is evidence based- nursing, Possibly a change in practice . thanks for good ideas.

Jemima, Nursing-Leadership - RN,BSN,MSN June 27, 2013 8:54 PM
Gaithersburg MD

Hi Mia. Very impressive article. I am in the DNP program at Maryvill University and trying to come up with a Cape Stone project. My interest is in Patient Aligned Centered Care. Not sure to formulate a problem question and what method to utilize?  Any suggentions?

Indra, Family Practice - APRN, VA May 8, 2013 1:41 PM
Lincoln NE

13 years in the ED as an ARNP. Areas of interest/concern are bed side triage in a timely manner. Nursing late entry documentation, and lax critical care thinking with vital sign documentation RN/parametics.

Rossana, Emergency Dept - ARNP, Hospital April 17, 2013 4:00 PM
Miami FL

I am a BSN to DNP student--I want to do my capstone on the PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly).  I am not sure where I am going with it yet....Anyone have any ideas?  

Christine Mullins, Med Surg - RN, BSN January 22, 2013 12:24 AM
Big Stone Gap VA

This week, we released our end-of-year compilation, Top 10 Articles of 2012 . The selected articles,

December 10, 2012 3:21 PM

Mai & Teresa,

Mai...this article is great.  It has lead me to Teresa's comment  which I have been enlightened.

Teresa, thanks for your posting.  Your posting/comment has assisted me in identifying a potential Cape Stone Project....If I would have only approached this task with what I know best to use....The Nursing Process!! I made it more difficult than I should have.

Carla, October 17, 2012 10:25 PM

Hello, I have started a BSN-DNP program of 3 years. I am already starting to think of my capstone. I have several areas that are dear to me. I will continue to peruse this site and the links to gather more information. We haven't been giving any particulars yet; I'm just an early bird. I want to do something that instill change. I would love to make my mark in this world positively in my nursing career. Some of my areas of interest are: stopping smoking, alternative medicine e.g., hypnosis. When I did my application for this program I stated an interest in education determining the quality/cost of education when being taught by less experienced professors. But don't quite know how to go about that. Thanks for this website and I look forward to conversing with you.


Wendy, neuroscience - BSN,RN, Shands Jacksonville June 14, 2012 12:38 AM
Jacksonville FL

I'm currently in a DNP program and I'm trying to fine tune my PICOT question. I'm wanting to focus my translational project on increasing the African American population on the bone marrow donor registry. African American tend to have low representation on both blood and tissue donor registry/program. Being an African American myself with a son with SCD, it is an important topic to me. How can elevate this concern to a doctoral level project? I was contemplating doing an educational intervention for the staff on ways/methods on how to educate/encourage this population during blood/marrow drives.

Angelia Winton, FNP March 21, 2012 12:34 PM

I am working on my DNP and Psych-Mental Health certification.  I would like to choose a topic in mental health.  I am having great difficulty coming up with ideas.  Any suggestions would be most appreciated.   Thanks..

Karen, corrections - APRN, Bureau of Prisons February 29, 2012 6:20 AM

Hi, I am hoping to start my dnp program in the fall but would like to have a great capstone project ready to go for the application. I work as a crna now in a community hospital. There are so many issues that could be discussed ie. Obesity, pain mgt, beta blocker compliance. Any suggestions on where to start? Thanks!

Erika December 14, 2011 3:54 PM

I am looking toward Patient flow in the ED.  Any suggestions for my capstone project?

Patricia , Capacity Management - Nurse Manager, HUMC October 20, 2011 7:46 AM
Hackensack NJ

Hi , I will be syating my DNP study and want your opinion of my capstone project. I am thinking a head so I will be ready for this. In oncology we use Taxol to treat many forms of cancer including node positive breast cancer. A common side effect of this drug is peripheral neuropathy which can lead to dose reduction or stopping the chmeotherapy which can lead to worse long tern out comes, or prognosis. I would like to start giving these patients 4 days of po glutamine to see if I can reduce or lessen the severity of the chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy. Lit review gives some support to this. Thanks, Ninon

Ninon, Oncology - FNP, BC, Kaiser September 6, 2011 2:53 PM
Atlanta GA


The point of a DNP project is to identify a problem, look at the system and using the nursing process basically  - make a change. It can be within a system - as mentioned in the article- increasing the uptake of vaccines; or at the legislative level - one I know is working with her state legislature to get independent practice for ARNPs in her state; mine is on independent hope these are helpful!

Teresa, Pediatrics - ARNP April 30, 2011 11:25 AM
Bettendorf IA

Give me an idea of an evidenced-based practice project as related to family practice--thinking of many things just cant wrap my mind around just one idea---help!

brenda, FNP February 11, 2011 12:37 AM

Hi Bev, I am happy to be of assistance.  I am impressed that you are planning for your DNP project and good luck in your study!


Ying Kung, Education - Faculty, Florida State University September 5, 2010 10:47 PM
Tallahassee FL

Mai, this article is very timely, thank you for posting. I have applied to the online DNP program at the University of Michigan-Flint. Eventhough I have my Post-Masters in Acute Care, and working in corrections, I am already thinking about what kind of project could I undertake. Your link is very helpful.


Beverly Clayton August 18, 2010 7:15 PM

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