Nursing Capstone Project

Where should I start when writing my nursing capstone project?

What is the appropriate nursing capstone format?

What are the suitable nursing capstone project ideas?

What are the appropriate types of research instruments to use?

These are some of the dilemmas BSN and MSN students usually face when undertaking their nursing capstone projects.

Writing a Nursing Capstone

Although an elaborate task, writing a nursing capstone is both interesting and rewarding.

All you need is the right set of knowledge and skills.

Just like in writing nursing essaysnursing research papers, and nursing care plans, skills in writing nursing capstone projects are critical for nursing students.

This is an illustration of the importance of the capstone projects for both BSN and MSN students.

In this, over the years, nursing capstone projects have growingly become a graduation requisite for both BSN and MSN programs.

Nursing capstone students are instructed to complete a clinical project for certain number of hours (e.g. 60 hours) in a particular role in order to graduate and become accredited.

The capstone project should meet the needs of the agency or unit while trying to improve care outcomes in that agency.

What is a Capstone Project?

Before embarking on the writing process, you need to ask yourself “what is a capstone project?”

In summary, a capstone project can be defined as:

“A multi-faceted project usually acting as a culminating intellectual and academic experience for students.”

In nursing, capstone projects could be assigned to both BSN and MSN students. They play a vital role in advancing the career of the nursing student that successfully completes it.

Note that nursing capstones usually demand the student to be working in a practical capacity.  As a nursing student, you will often require assistance from a receptor to complete the project.

Undertaking the project commonly corresponds with the tight school schedule, which creates a good environment for the student to demonstrate some core competencies such as:

1. Ability to work under pressure

2. Capacity to think fast

3. Ability to timely solve problems

4. Capacity to protect coworkers, patients, their families, and general public from potential harm

Ideally, a nursing capstone is designed to help identify and address behaviors that may lead to poor decision making and ways of curbing this potential harm.

Nursing Capstone versus Nursing Thesis

For some scholars, nursing capstone and nursing thesis are overlapping undertakings that are often confused with each other.

It is therefore important for a nursing student to understand the difference between the two before commencing the project.

Although nursing capstone and thesis projects may vary from one institution to another, it is agreeable that there are some common as well as distinctive features between the two.

In some cases other institutions give the students the option between the two.

Common Features

  1. Both integrate an internship or practicum-like element done through clinical work.

Distinctive Features

1. A capstone requires the student to come up with a research project that reviews and analyzes a specific topic. Differently, a thesis calls for the student to make a claim about a wider topic and then evaluate the claim.

2. A capstone is designed to review existing information. On the other hand, a thesis usually seeks to introduce new information or ideas.

The above noted, there could be variations between BSN capstone projects and MSN capstone project among different institutions.

It is therefore imperative to work closely with your instructor and supervisor when carrying out the nursing capstone project.

Nursing Capstone Goals 

Nursing capstone goals should be clearly understood before embarking on the project execution. From the perspective of the program, such goals may include:

1. Enable the student to demonstrate capacity for evidence-based analyses within critical healthcare environment situations.

2. Enable the student to illustrate their understanding of the important role their nursing field plays within the modern healthcare setting.

3. Enable the student disseminate knowledge on key issues affecting the modern healthcare environment from an academic perspective.

Based on these goals, students can prove their ability to carry out both educational and administrative functions that show their capacity to help future nurses and the nursing profession.

From a strictly student’s perspective, nursing capstone goals would be:

1. Promoting career growth in potentially numerous different directions.

2. Demonstrating capacity for independent thought within nursing situations.

3. Demonstrating the capacity to analyze and use empirical evidence to solve particular health problem.

4. Illustrating the capacity to apply practical experience in solving major issues in the modern clinical environment.

The BSN or MSN student needs to understand these goals to help ensure that the nursing capstone project is well designed and effectively executed.

Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing Capstone

As earlier mentioned, writing a nursing capstone has to be grounded on evidence-based practice in nursing. The capstone should therefore have an EBP project design.

Accordingly, students are expected to design their nursing capstone project around the EBP values.

As illustrated in EBP practice nursing examples, by employing the EBP project design, the capstone should demonstrate the understanding and application of sound best practices in the handling of critical situations reflected in the modern healthcare environment.

Common focal points for these nursing capstone projects could include:

1. New ways of addressing the spread of infections that are treatment-resistant within healthcare settings.

2. Better ways of organizing and administering staffing as well as scheduling of related concerns.

To help enhance evidence-based practice in the nursing capstone, it is required that the student works closely with a practicing professional.

The practicing professional should help provide practical and real-world experience requisite in designing the nursing capstone project.

Since the capstone is a culminating project, it should be different from other nursing written undertakings as it prepares the student for management and education-related roles that usually feature extensive research.

Nursing Capstone Project Guidelines

Nursing capstone could assume numerous forms, including outcome-based evaluations, case studies, program evaluations, focus groups, and surveys.

Despite the differences in the nature of the capstone and requirements by respective institutions or departments, nursing capstone project guidelines could include:

1. Capstone project options

Usually, nursing capstone students could choose from two options for their projects, including: 1) a scholarly paper or an academic project and 2) a manuscript intended for publication.

It is important to clarify what option is provided for by your institution.

2. Capstone project topic selection

Students have the responsibility of coming up with the nursing capstone project topic. Factors to consider when selecting the topic include:

-Proposed project’s relevance to advanced practice nursing.

-Project’s congruence with academic and practice interests.

-Project’s scope, advanced practice level academic and professional expectations, time required for completion.

-Institution’s approval when conducting research on human subjects.

3. Capstone project mentor

The student should have a capstone mentor provided or approved by the faculty.

It’s the student’s responsibility to find a suitable mentor, usually holding a doctorate degree and with expertise in areas like publication process, topic area, and project methods.

4. Capstone project proposal

The student is required to develop a project proposal. Students should consult with the mentor on the proposal’s format and content.

The proposal should identify the selected capstone option, completion timeline, and nature of expected outcomes and deliverables.

The mentor should go through the proposal and suggest any changes if need be.

5. Completed capstone project

This entails written evidence demonstrating learning on the part of the student.

The format of the written document should be arrived at in consultation with the project mentor.

Nursing Capstone Format

Usually, the format should be founded on the basic MSN capstone project guidelines. This in the acknowledgment that the nursing capstone format could vary for different institutions.

Based on the MSN capstone project guidelines, a common format could be as illustrated below.

1. Table of Contents

The table of contents should list the different sections of the nursing capstone project, including the below.

2. Abstract

This should be a succinct description of the contents of the capstone project paper. It should be limited to 150 words.

3. Background of the Paper

The section entails a description of the scope the capstone project addresses. It should encompass the contents found in the Problem Identification and Analysis part of the project proposal.

The last paragraph should summarize the project’s contents and guide the reader into the following sections.

4. Literature Review

This section contains a review of scientific evidence in support of the nursing capstone project.

It should have a brief introduction capturing the aim of the project.

Further, it should describe the literature search process and the selection criteria for articles reviewed.

Selection of manuscripts criteria should be similar to the one described in the proposal.

Reviews should be succinct and both descriptive and critical.

The section should end with a paragraph summarizing the strengths and limitations of accessed literature.

5. Project Description

5.0  Evidence-Based Model

This section should briefly describe the Evidence-Based Nursing or Practice Model the capstone project is based upon.

In some cases, this description could appear after the background.

5.1.1  Option 1

This should include a detailed description of the project based on how it occurred.

Challenges encountered and alterations made on the original proposed plan should be taken into account and discussed.

Materials used or developed should be described and later on included in the appendices.

There should be numerous and logical sections.

5.1.2  Outcome Evaluation and Outcomes

This section should have a description of how the intervention was evaluated as well as the results of the evaluation.

It should contain tables and figures.

A plan on dissemination of results should also be included.

5.2.1   Option 2

This section should include a detailed description of best practice evidence.

It should have practical and logical subsections.

The necessary outcome evaluation criteria should be included.

5.2.2   Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations

This section should have a brief summary of the project and its outcomes.

It should discuss how the project reflects the EBP model employed in the capstone.

Recommendations on changes on future practice, research, or implementation should be made.

6. Reference List

This should include all the sources used in the nursing capstone project.

7. Appendices

This entails all the extra materials not included in the body of the paper.

The appendices should be labeled and arranged in alphabetical order.

Nursing Capstone Topics

Nursing capstone topics could be generated from different areas. Key areas to look for nursing project topics and MSN education practicum project ideas may include:

1. Staff education

2. Development or upgrading a care plan, clinical guideline, protocol, or policy.

3. New agency policy or unit implementation.

4. Evidence gathering or quality review clinical project.

5. Patient education clinical projects.

There are also other numerous areas to explore for nursing capstone topics.

You can go ahead and explore our nursing capstone project ideas for specific nursing capstone topics.