Basics of DNP Capstone Project – Stage and Components

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) project is a culmination of doctor of nursing practice and it provides a chance for learners to translate the knowledge they have acquired into practice. As such, the DNP is practice-focused and an important part of the consolidative practice experience.

The DNP project allows nursing students to go deep in their areas of interest and complete a project focusing on clinical practice. The students can also use the project to demonstrate their mastery of nursing education in their advanced area of nursing while translating evidence into practice.

What is the Purpose of the DNP Capstone Project?

The primary goal of a nursing capstone project is to inform the methods student nurses will use to deliver care and educate others in their chosen community. The DNP project also helps student nurses demonstrate their ability to lead and practice high level and quality clinical nursing practice. As a doctoral nursing education student, you will be asked to integrate the following appropriate knowledge and skills into your final capstone paper:

  • Expertise in reflective nursing practice.
  • Expertise and professionalism in your area of interest.
  • Independence nursing practice inquiry – identifying existing problems, needs in nursing practice, and/ healthcare systems.
  • Organizational and health systems leadership skills – developing, implementing, and evaluating interventions to enhance patient outcomes for diverse populations or communities.
  • Ability to evaluate, translate, and use research and evidence to improve health and quality of patient outcomes.
  • Knowledge of advanced healthcare policy, ethics and law to develop a population-based program based on the best available and current practice evidence.

Types of DNP Projects

With the help of your academic advisor, professional experience within your area of specialization, and input from stakeholders you can identify a good topic for your DNP project. You can conduct your DNP project with the approval and guidance of your DNP Project Team or complete the project alone. Whichever way you want to complete it, DNP projects are based on one of the following types:

Quality Improvement (QI)

This type requires DNP students to identify a problem in conjunction with stakeholders. The problem is then investigated using the appropriate tools and improvement strategies and the results are described based on consolidative research reviews. A plot for improvement is developed and approved by the stakeholders. The plan is executed using hypothetically based change strategies.

The evaluation of the change is done for both short-term and long-term sustainability. Moreover, the DNP project and outcomes are presented to the stakeholders then disseminated to a larger population in a method approved by the DNP committee.

Program Development and Evaluation

Program development and evaluation project require students to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment about an identified problem influencing a population. Based on the assessment, an integrative research review, and collaboration with key stakeholders, a nurse student can develop a program proposal designed to address the identified problem.

For a program development and evaluation DNP, students will require to do assessments of the inputs, processes, and results of a particular program. You will evaluate the results of the program outcomes using the most suitable measure and methods. You will compare the results of the selected program to the evidence-based outcomes produced from a systematic review of research.

Evaluation of New Practice Model, Guideline, or Innovation

For this type of nursing practice DNP project, students are required to evaluate the most recently implemented practice, guidelines, or innovation. They will conduct a systematic review of research on the ley tenets of the model and describe the strengths and limitation of using the model in a micro- or macro-system. These DNP projects involve conducting an evaluation using a systematic approach and suitable tools and standards.

Faculty Research

The faculty research type of DNP project allows DNP students to replicate or extend ongoing clinically-based faculty research at the discretion of the faculty member. If they opt to get involved in faculty research, they will require to engage in activities that are integral to the DNP to meet the project objectives. Students can conduct research using one of the many methods of quantitative or qualitative inquiry specific to the expertise of the qualified faculty.

The quantitative methodology investigates the phenomena that lend a precise measurement and quantification involving thoroughly and controlled scholarly project. Qualitative methodology on the other hand is a naturalistic approach that extensively explores human experiences. Along with the approaches, you may include a case study or a brief ethnography.

Participatory Action Research (PAR) can also be used in a faculty study. It is a methodology where a student engages an interested group of community members in a collective aim to test new ideas and execute the action for the desired change. The PAR is often used in public and global health platforms.

It follows a cyclic, systematic, and adaptive method of collective inquiry. Besides, it involves assessment, planning, collecting evidence of outcomes, taking action, analyzing and evaluating outcomes, reflecting, and continuing the process for practice change.

How to Develop a DNP Project Using an Evidence-Based Approach

DNP projects are essentially a reflection of critical thinking skills and the ability to translate research into practice through problem identification, proposal, development, execution, and evaluation. Therefore, using clinical evidence from your area of interest, you can seamlessly develop your DNP capstone using evidence-based practice. You can follow the steps below as guidance in developing your DNP scholarly project:

Formulate a Well-developed Question

Students need to define an innovative or clinical inquiry and identify an issue on which they will base their capstone project question. Moreover, present the effects of the problem on the healthcare system or patients in a clear and concise manner.

Review the Literature to Identify Evidence-based Resources that Answer your DNP Question

DNP students are required to review the relevant literature that is related to the issue. You can cover the problem’s historical development and any interventions or attempts to resolve it. If you will be relying on evidence-based information, then choose the highest possible level of evidence you can get.

Assess the Validity of your Resources using Evidence

By using standard and acceptable tools and methods, you can search and collect verifiable data for your DNP project.

Apply that Evidence

Make sure to describe the results to be measured upon implementation.

Implement Results and or analyze the results

Make sure to re-evaluate the implementation and identify areas that require improvement. One way to ensure your DNP project attains the intended objectives is to ask yourself questions. This way, you will ensure your project meets the required clinical standards. You can ask questions such as:

  • Does my DNP project focus on communities, populations, individuals or health systems?
  • What health issues will my project address?
  • Is my capstone project based on clinical evidence? Will it solve issues or directly inform my practice?
  • Will my project demonstrate my mastery of DNP competencies attained through my doctoral education?
  • Is my project supported by practice evidence provided through existing literature?
  • Does my capstone project address patient outcomes or healthcare problems?
  • Does my project provide a basis for future scholarship in nursing?

Stages and Components of a DNP Project

The design of DNP projects is be bound by the requirements of a DNP advisory committee. However, the final project will most likely include the following components:

Abstract

Your DNP project abstract should contain sufficient information that summarizes the entire DNP project. The abstract serves as an outline of your DNP and it should have an introduction, body and conclusion. It must also highlight the major points of your project and explain why your project is important, what it is intended for, how you went about it, what you learned and what you concluded.

Executive Summary

Your executive summary should inform the reader what your project is all about. Essentially, an executive summary should include more details than what an abstract contains. It should contain a brief introduction, body and conclusion. In fact, your executive summary should be a compressed version of your capstone project. The overview covers all the main points included in your project, but in a summarized way. Make sure to include in-text citations according to the college requirements or APA editorial conventions. Most importantly, aim at making your executive summary brief, clear and persuasive.

Introduction to the Project

Write a captivating introduction to your DNP project to capture and sustain the attention of your readers. Be sure to present your thesis statement in the last sentence of your introduction paragraph. After the introduction, the problem statement chapter should follow up. In the problem statement, describe the conceptual framework upon which you will clarify the problem and its resolution. Your conceptual framework serves to guide you in developing the thesis of your DNP project.

Literature Review

In the literature review section, you should review relevant literature that is related to the problem. Be sure to cover the problem’s historical background, development, and interventions, or attempts to solve it.  Also, describe the level of evidence relied on. Most importantly, focus on finding systematic reviews, critically-appraised clinical articles, or meta-analyses.

Description of Resolution Plan

This should be a detailed description of your strategy for solving the problem. Be sure to identify the method and process you will use to collect data and develop your capstone paper. Give details of the targeted population while describing the instruments required for data survey and collection. Expound on the interventions used in your strategies.

Outcomes

DNP projects aim at creating real solutions that help nurses and health care systems resolve real patient problems. Teaching strategy, community intervention plan, or media presentation are some of the results your DNP project might produce.

In the outcome chapter, be sure to give an extensive description of the results from your plan for problem resolution. Include information on potential impacts of the outcomes on patients or the healthcare system. Give outcome data and if you have come up with a practice solution, be sure to describe it here.

Conclusion and recommendation

The conclusion aims at summarizing your project and its results. Make a description of every conclusion evident from the outcomes and process of your capstone project. Find compelling ways of tying your conclusion to the literature review. Also, present any recommendations that may help address the problem in the future. For example, you can include suggestions to improve how the problem can get solved and the nursing practice in general. When giving recommendations, you should use evidence to support your views since an evidence-based approach automatically grabs the attention of your readers.

References

Your capstone project must include a reference page that presents in full all the references you relied on when writing your project. Make sure that your reference page adheres to the APA’s editorial standards and every reference used for in-text citation should appear in full. If you find difficulties in writing your references in full, seek free guidance on an online site like Purdueowl.com. Keep in mind that well-structured DNP projects deliver high grades.

Conclusion

These are the basics of doctor of nursing practice that student nurses should follow when writing their doctoral program project. It is advisable that once a student nurse has registered for a DNP project program, they should work towards its completion throughout their entire stay in the nursing college.

A capstone project program is not something that should be taken lightly, therefore make sure you have taken the right decisions as a practice nurse about your capstone project. With these, you will have a smooth ride as a student nurse aiming for greater achievements.

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