The DNP Project: What Is It Exactly and Why Is It Necessary?

The DNP Project: What Is It Exactly and Why Is It Necessary?

Anyone who is in a DNP program already knows about the final DNP project. But if you’re thinking about pursuing a DNP, you need to know more about it.

Stephen Ferrara, DNP, FNP, FAANP, FNAP, Associate Dean, Clinical Affairs & Associate Professor, Columbia University School of Nursing; Editor in Chief, Journal of Doctoral Nursing Practice; and Executive Director, The Nurse Practitioner Association New York State, took time to answer our questions about the final DNP project (also known as the capstone project—please note that these terms will be used interchangeable in this story). What follows is an edited version of our interview.

For those who don’t have a DNP and may not know what the DNP project is, please explain what it is and why it’s necessary.

Completion of a final DNP project or capstone in doctoral programs is intended to demonstrate the students’ synthesis of knowledge gained during the program. DNP students should be familiar with AACN’s Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice since most, if not all, DNP programs are expected to adhere to this document.

In essence, the faculty utilize the final project as means of evaluating whether the student has developed mastery of the concepts within the students’ course of doctoral study. The final project must show an improve to clinical practice and/or patient outcomes.

How long do nursing students usually spend on their projects? What are they expected to accomplish?

Projects vary in length but are generally 1-1 1/2 years. Some examples of final DNP projects include a quality improvement initiative or other clinical practice change such as a pilot study, implementation and evaluation of a new practice model with scholarly dissemination in the forms of manuscripts for peer-review submission. 

When they embark on these projects, what should DNP nursing students keep in mind to help things go smoothly?

One of my mentors would remind me that the final project was not meant to be my “life’s work.” In other words, the application of the final project needed to be transferrable. The education and skills we learned could be applied to different clinical issues, populations, and settings. The project needed to stay on a reasonable timeline so that it could be completed. This concept differs somewhat from PhD studies, where students typically focus on a specialty and continue throughout their career. Also, PhD dissertations can last through many semesters. Finally, strong organizational skills are essential since there are many inter-related parts that need to be coordinated to ensure success.

What are the biggest challenges for nursing students in completing their projects?

I would say that there are two main challenges: 1. Having too broad or too ambitious of a project and 2. Not adhering to timelines. This can jeopardize the entire project.

If a student is having issues with his/her project, what should they do?

DNP students need to regularly meet and communicate with their faculty advisors. Advisors should help students navigate through unanticipated challenges, bureaucratic delays, and unexpected results. Other DNP graduates or mentors can also students with some issues they may encounter. “Crowd sourcing” through social media may also help students with general issues they may encounter.

What else should nursing students—and nurses who don’t have and aren’t yet pursuing a DNP, but might in the future—know about the DNP final project?

Doctoral work in any discipline is synthesizing information. Final DNP projects tend to take existing high-level evidence and implement or apply to different practice setting rather than creating new evidence as is done with the PhD.

In addition, DNP work should not end with the final project. The expectation is for DNP graduates to continue contributing to the scholarly application and dissemination on their work throughout their careers. I encourage anyone wanting to see examples of this scholarly work to visit the Journal of Doctoral Nursing Practice (JDNP) website or check with their institutions’ library.

Nurse of the Week: University of Arkansas Nursing Graduate Wendy Hart Helps Support Heart Failure Patients

Nurse of the Week: University of Arkansas Nursing Graduate Wendy Hart Helps Support Heart Failure Patients

Our Nurse of the Week is Wendy Hart, a recent Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) graduate in the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing at the University of Arkansas (U of A), who used a $500 grant to purchase equipment for patients with heart failure issues.

Hart received the grant money as part of her final doctoral project where she worked with a dozen local patients at Northwest Medical Center’s Heart Care center in Springdale, AR. The equipment Hart purchased for her study included weight scales and blood pressure cuffs for each of the patients who participated.

Hart has been a registered nurse at Northwest Medical Center for 13 years, with a primary focus on cardiovascular disease. She’s currently an emergency department registered nurse. Hart continued to work while earning her DNP at U of A and graduated with her fellow College of Education and Health Professions students on May 11.

Her final DNP project focused on implementing a quality improvement project in the healthcare field of her choice. She worked with Dr. Michael Green at Northwest Medical Center. 

Hart tells news.uark.edu, “I have always been passionate about patients in the heart failure population. The goal of this project was to improve self-care management and decrease unnecessary hospital readmissions. Heart failure patients require a lot of management and continuous communication with a provider to assure that they are maintaining their baseline well-being.”

The main objectives for maintaining overall well-being include daily weight, fluid and salt management, and early recognition of worsening symptoms. Hart recognized that access to the right equipment was a major barrier for her participants and she wanted to assure that each patient was given the best chance for success. She reached out to the American Heart Association local branch to see if they would assist her, which led to the grant that allowed her to purchase 12 bathroom scales and 10 blood pressure cuffs.

To learn more about Wendy Hart, a recent DNP graduate from the University of Arkansas, who used a $500 grant to purchase equipment for patients with heart failure issues, visit here.

Participate in our 2019 Nursing Career Survey!

Participate in our 2019 Nursing Career Survey!

Calling all nurses! Springer Publishing Company has launched the 2019 Nursing Career Survey, and we want to hear from you!

This study is designed for professional nurses and nursing students in every stage of their careers. Springer Publishing Company is surveying nurses to find out more about your professional paths, academic achievements, and leadership goals.

We are interested in learning about what steps you take and what tools you use to further your career, whether you’re just starting out or you’re thinking about pursuing a specialty. Your feedback will help us determine how we can better serve you and your needs in your nursing careers.

As always, there’s a perk for participating and helping Springer Publishing Company report the most up-to-date nursing career data. Survey participants will be entered to win one of five $25 Amazon gift cards!

Click here now to participate in the survey. We look forward to hearing your responses!

Graduate Student Nurses Face Enrollment Concerns Over a Critical Shortage of Health Care Providers

Graduate Student Nurses Face Enrollment Concerns Over a Critical Shortage of Health Care Providers

The United States is facing a critical shortage in all health care professions. With the nation’s baby boomer population approaching retirement age, the issue is twofold: the aging population requires more care, and the nation’s physicians, nurses, and other health professionals are retiring.

Too Many Students, Not Enough Options

The solution to filling this gap is replacing the departing health care professionals with nursing graduates of all academic levels. However, many higher education institutions are turning away suitable candidates in droves. In 2016, nursing degree programs in the U.S. rejected 64,067 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs alike citing a lack of budget, faculty, clinical sites and preceptors, and classroom space.

Currently, there is a serious shortage of physicians, which continues to grow. By 2025, there will be a projected deficit of nearly 35,600 primary care doctors alone. Nursing schools are facing the struggle and strain to increase the capacity of existing nursing programs, and explore other avenues like online courses and accreditation.

Higher Education Means Higher Pay

Enrollment is increasing in nursing masters and doctoral programs across the country, and it’s no wonder that nurses are applying to graduate schools en masse. RNs realize there are significant perks to training and becoming an advanced practice registered nurse. Evidence shows that the quality of care by an advanced practice nurse is comparable to physicians, while often more affordable.

The full-time annual salary for a Nurse Practitioner (NP) averages $105,546. The high pay range of the NP may be partly to blame for the faculty shortage—higher compensation in the clinical setting is luring potential educators away from teaching.

Most vacant faculty positions require a terminal nursing degree. If more nurses pursue a doctoral degree, the faculty shortage will be alleviated. What will the outcomes of the nursing shortage be? Only time will tell.

Caitlin Goodwin MSN, RN, CNM is a Board Certified Nurse-Midwife and freelance writer. She has ten years of nursing experience and graduated with a MSN from Frontier Nursing University.    

Touro University’s DNP Program Receives Max Accreditation

Touro University’s DNP Program Receives Max Accreditation

Touro University’s doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) program has received the max accreditation offered by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), which will last through 2023. Touro’s DNP program is designed for working nurses and allows students to graduate in about a third of the time it takes to complete a traditional program.

Nursing Program Director Ann Stoltz tells dailyrepublic.com, “We’re thrilled at the five-year accreditation news. Our hybrid program is specifically designed so a working nurse can complete the program in only 18 months. With the accreditation, CCNE lets future doctorate students know our nursing program meets quality standards recognized by the US Department of Education.”

The CCNE is an autonomous accrediting agency that ensures the quality and integrity of a variety of nursing programs and is officially recognized by the US Secretary of Education. Touro began the accreditation process in December 2016 with a scheduled CCNE site visit after the program had been running for one year. The CCNE representatives met with faculty, students, alumni, administrators, and university support services to determine that the program meets the CCNE’s standards for accreditation.

Touro’s DNP program prepares graduates for advanced nursing practice, and also offers specialized education in diabetes across the life span with a focus on clinical practice. Earning accreditation helps encourage potential new students, assuring quality educational standards and improved public health offerings to the surrounding communities who rely on graduates of the nursing school.

To learn more about Touro University’s DNP program receiving accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education through 2023, the maximum numbers of years that can be accredited to a new program, visit here.

UMass Dartmouth Doctoral Nursing Student Receives Jonas Philanthropies Grant

UMass Dartmouth Doctoral Nursing Student Receives Jonas Philanthropies Grant

A University of Massachusetts Dartmouth student was recently awarded a $10,000 grant from Jonas Philanthropies. Christine Fournier Bell, a second-year nursing Ph.D student, received the Jonas Nurse Scholar grant for studying the effects of combined educational and behavioral intervention on pain management practices.

“Christine was chosen for this honor based on her scholarly record and her commitment to improving the care of persons with substance use disorders through nursing intervention in the acute care setting,” said UMass Dartmouth College of Nursing Dean Kimberly Christopher. “We are very proud of Christine Bell and of our Ph.D. program. This is a wonderful testament to our program.”

Bell is the second Jonas Scholar from UMass Dartmouth. In addition to receiving the grant, she will participate in the Jonas Nurse Leaders Program in Washington DC.

“I am humbled and grateful for such an honor,” Bell shared with the UMass Dartmouth Office of Public Affairs. “As a nurse who cares deeply for this population, I look forward to working alongside nurses to find new ways to provide innovative care and treatment to people living with the disease of substance use disorder. There is always hope.”

Launched in 2008, the Jonas Nurse Scholars program has awarded more than 1,000 scholars across the US. The invitation-only program supports development of doctoral nursing students to address the nationwide nursing faculty shortage.

For more information about the Jonas Scholars and Jonas Philanthropies, click here. For more information about the UMass Dartmouth College of Nursing, click here.

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