Selecting a DNP Capstone Project
Q: I am applying to DNP programs and one of the programs asked to state a topic of interest for the DNP capstone project if one was to be admitted. I was wondering if this is a good capstone project topic? Is it too broad? Does it encompass what a capstone entails? "I am currently in the process of becoming an active duty Air Force nurse. If I were to be accepted into your program, my interest for the capstone project would be centered on military healthcare professionals, particularly nurses with PTSD, and what policies can be implemented so that this condition does not negatively affect patient care."
A: Determining a topic of interest for the DNP scholarly project is one that needs consideration on a multitude of levels. First and foremost, it is the culmination of your education and clinical experiences. It is your expression of nursing interest, passion, education and leadership as a DNP student (Conway-Welch, 2010). The capstone project is a venue to contribute to the body of nursing knowledge, using your skills as a nurse and researcher to carry on the pioneering spirit of the DNP.
Choosing a topic is very subjective and is based on individual interest and experience. Discussing the topic with either your adviser or committee will help guide you through this process. Some questions to keep in mind when selecting a “phenomenon of interest” are; a) Is the topic relevant to the current healthcare climate, b) Is it researchable, c) Is the research question novel, d) Is it relevant to my present or future clinical practice?
Wright State University of Ohio has compiled thorough directives for the capstone project in their DNP program handbook, 2012-2013 (see link below). In it, the authors have created the following list to assist in choosing a capstone project:
- The project relates to your advanced practice specialty.
- The project is evidence based.
- The project focuses on identified need(s) of a group, population or community rather than an individual person.
- The project may be done in partnership with agencies or other groups.
- The project leadership may be solo or collaborative depending on the scope of the project.
- A thorough, systematic and replicable approach is used for design, implementation, and evaluation of the project outcomes.
- The project meets accepted professional standards.
- Opportunities are available for dissemination at professional and public forums that meet your time/financial constraints (2012).
There are a number of universities, websites, and current literature that can assist in your selection of a topic. The key principle to keep in mind is your particular interest, experience, and development need of the phenomenon. This is going to be your contribution to the nursing discipline and healthcare system. Make the selection that will generate a difference in health care related outcomes (2012).
- Conway-Welch, C. (2010). Doctor of Nursing Practice Scholarly Projects, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.nursing.vanderbilt.edu/dnp/pdf/dnp_scholarlprojects_2010.pdf
- Wright State University College of Nursing and Health and the University of Toledo College of Nursing (2012). Doctor of Nursing Practice Program Handbook 2012-2013. Retrieved from nursing.wright.edu/sites/default/files/.../DNP-handbook-083112.pdf
Editor's note: At the DNP Answers blog, nurse practitioners with a DNP answer your questions about the degree. This question is answered by blogger Catherine Nichols, MSN, ANP-BC, a DNP student and adult nurse practitioner. Comment below to discuss this topic, or send new questions to email@example.com.
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