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Capstone Project Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Capstone Project?
Who comprises the Student’s Supervisory Committee?
What is the typical focus of a Capstone Project?
How does the Capstone Project interface with the community?
What type of data is involved in a Capstone Project?
How is the student’s performance evaluated?
Does Human Subjects need to be involved?
What is the time period for completing a Capstone?

What is a Capstone Project?

A capstone is a systematic investigation of a clinical question related to practice. The scope of practice could include one or more of the following  aspects of health care: patient populations, the community, stakeholders, health care systems, health informatics and health policy.  The capstone project entails 12 credits and is guided by a supervisory committee. The Initial Plan for DNP Capstone Project form needs to be completed prior to taking NMETH 801.

Who comprises the Student’s Supervisory Committee?

See DNP Students: Supervisory Committee and Graduate School Memorandum 13.

What is the typical focus of a Capstone Project?

The DNP curriculum prepares students to engage in capstone projects that primarily focus on the appraisal and translation of theory and evidence to practice. For many areas of clinical practice, evidence has not been very well established and thus theory and “all forms of best evidence” are considered. “All forms of best evidence” may include but not limited to scientific literature, scientific studies, systematic reviews, clinical guidelines, expert opinions, consensus panels, and community perspectives. In addition, evidence often needs to be modified or adapted to best match specific populations that were not included in the original studies. The actual appraisal and translational process itself is complex and involves many layers of consideration. The entire process entails a dynamic and interactive progression of phases beginning with

  • appraisal and synthesis of theory and “all forms of best evidence”,
  • consideration of possible modification and adaptation of theory and “all forms of best evidence” to a particular clinical population or community,
  • dissemination, implementation and sustainability strategies and
  • impact on the quality of health care and health outcomes in a cost-effective way. In addition, capstone projects may focus on health informatics such as the development of data sets and registries to capture the evaluative nature of the translational process.

Given the complexity and time commitment involved in the entire appraisal and translational process, a 12 credit capstone projects may focus on a particular aspect of the process. In other words, students may collaborate with community based colleagues, consumers and/ or and stakeholders on one part/ phase of the process, and perhaps, other students may pick up where previous students left off, thus over time, several students contribute toward a practice oriented scholarly effort. Or perhaps, another alternative may entail groups of students simultaneously contributing toward a single community based scholarly effort.

How does the Capstone Project interface with the community?

Students will be encouraged to explore opportunities to collaborate and reach an explicit agreement with colleagues, consumers and/ or stakeholders in the community to investigate a mutually agreed upon clinically relevant questions.  The process of negotiation and collaboration is itself a valuable learning experience.  Single student or groups of students would engage in this collaborative process that is of mutual interest to the student and the community. Again, as previously discussed, the student may negotiate to engage in a particular aspect of the scholarly effort given the complexity and time commitment often involved in the ongoing process of collaborating with community based colleagues,  consumers and/ or stakeholders.

The student’s Statement of Mutual Agreement identifies in specific written terms the agreed upon signed contract that has been negotiated with and equally agreed upon by all involved participants affiliated with a particular agency/ institution/ community group.  The Statement of Mutual Agreement needs to be drafted by the student to spell out all the specifics that have been jointly negotiated among the student, faculty and agency/institution/ community group.  The proposed specifics may include the overall purpose of the capstone and the associated responsibilities, plus specific objectives, methods, human subject approval process, resources including access to experts and mentors, and the format and dissemination of the final product.

What type of data is involved in a Capstone Project?

Different types of data are involved in capstone project.  Data may take on a variety of forms such as interpretive, empirical and evaluative.  The range of data is variable and needs to match with the clinical question. Examples of data sources could include clinician/ consumer focused groups, patient registries, health information systems, benchmark indices and epidemiological data sets.

How is the student's performance evaluated?

The Supervisory Committee in collaboration with the student will determine how the capstone is evaluated. The expectation is that the results of the capstone investigation would be disseminated within the collaborating agency and to other relevant stakeholders.

Does Human Subjects need to be involved?

Because capstone projects can take on a variety of forms, the student needs to contact the Human Subject Division within the respective university and agency to determine if a review is needed. All necessary procedures and approval need to occur.

What is the time period for completing a Capstone?

Students will vary in the time period for completion depending on the particular nature of the project.   We anticipate that most DNP students will take 2-3 quarters of NMETH 801.  A realistic time frame is needed so that students complete the project in a timely way.  For example, an agency may have an ongoing project that the student could assume leadership for a particular component.