Drafting essays and projects for most courses throughout your nursing education is pretty straightforward. The professor assigns a topic, you do a little research, then procrastinate by watching way too much TV until finally one evening you force yourself to sit at the computer churning out 5 or 10 pages of content. But, for DNP students this is different.
DNP students have the freedom to select the topic of their program-long capstone project. While the ability to choose the subject of your DNP capstone project is exciting, it leaves many students scrambling to pin down a research question. How do you go about choosing a topic for your DNP capstone project? Let’s brainstorm.
The options for the subject of your DNP capstone project are endless. The first thing you should do in choosing your topic is narrow down your options by evaluating your experience and areas of personal interest. What types of populations do you like to work with? If you have a passion for pediatrics, then formulating a research question about falls in nursing homes will make carrying out your capstone project feel like a drag. In what settings have you worked? If you love being in the ICU, choose an intensive care related topic. If the emergency department is your niche, formulating a research question about ED care will interest you more than investigating an unrelated topic. Make a list of your populations, practice areas, and medical issues of interest. Then, you can incorporate these into your DNP capstone topic.
Second, consider the different components of the healthcare system and how they tie in to your populations and practice settings of interest. One of the great things about working in healthcare is its multifaceted nature. Healthcare is political, economic, scientific, and personal. Work your way through these different aspects of the medical field and they just may spark some capstone project topic ideas.
- Political- The healthcare landscape is in the midst of some significant political changes. Consider how these changes will affect patient populations, or even healthcare workers themselves. Nurse practitioners and other healthcare providers are governed by sets of practice laws. Think about how scope of practice laws affect care for your population of interest.
- Economic-Medicine is a business. While many of us don’t like to think of it as such, the economics of healthcare affect our practices. What impact does this have on patients and providers? The economics of the medical field can be investigated on a macro level, or on a personal level. How do patient’s financial situations affect their health or perception of medicine?
- Scientific- New medical research is constantly released giving us insight into how the body works and how our environment affects health. Reviewing recent studies about your population of interest just might spark an idea for your capstone project.
- Personal- Physical health is intrinsically related to emotional health. How do certain medical problems make patients feel? How do patients react to a diagnosis? The relationship between patients and healthcare workers also strikes and emotional cord and can significantly affect health and outcomes.
Following your brainstorm, you should have a few prospective topics lined up. Next, look at the feasibility of researching your topics of interest. If scope of practice laws strike your fancy and one of your prospective topics includes contacting politicians this could be a difficult task to achieve. Consider refining your topic. If you are interested in performing an intervention to decrease obesity rates among elementary school aged Hispanic children but your city has a non-existent Latino community, this poses a problem for your research topic. You may need to expand your intended population. Sometimes, the most worthwhile and interesting topics do involve overcoming a few hurdles but don’t make your project impossible. You will regret it.
Finally, consider the value of your contribution. Your DNP capstone project is an opportunity to make a significant contribution to nursing and our body of research. Choose a compelling topic that will keep your interest throughout your program. Topics directed towards the direction you see your career taking will be the most influential for your personal development.
Still lost? If you are still having difficulty selecting a subject for your capstone project once you have had a serious brainstorm session, solicit the help of others. Meet with your DNP program advisor bringing your brainstorm notes with you. Your advisor may be able to help you formulate your ideas into a cohesive research question. Looking at DNP projects from past students may also be helpful in helping you create a research question. Many NP program websites list topics from past students which will help you come up with a capstone topic of your own.
Need help turning your topic ideas into a research question? Post your brainstorm below and let the ThriveAP community help!
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