Five Questions Answered about the DNP Project

Five Questions Answered about the DNP Project

So, you’ve done your homework on the Doctor of Nursing Practice program and selected the program specialization that fits your career goals and background best. You have a good handle on the curriculum of the program and the practice experiences that are built into the DNP course work after talking with a DNP admissions engagement manager.

But maybe you still have questions about the DNP project you’ve heard so much about. Here are five common questions about this key component of the DNP program at American Sentinel:

What is the DNP project?

The project is an integral, “pinnacle” component of the Doctor of Nursing Practice. It’s where students identify a problem statement and a purpose statement, create a research proposal, and implement and analyze their project. They must defend that project to a committee that includes members of nursing leadership.

When does the project begin during the DNP program?

Students get started almost immediately after taking the foundational class called Leadership: Setting the Example.

What kinds of projects are acceptable for the DNP project?

Students choose all kinds of different projects, but a common theme amongst them is that they are focused on topics of interest that are applicable to their careers and organizations. The project should be a strategic change project that incorporates change theory, incorporates professional nursing standards, and addresses the impact and the key stakeholders of the project.The DNP project follows an Implementation Science format. Implementation science requires that the student “do something” (an intervention). All DNP projects must be designed to evaluate a process or a program or an outcome.

Past students have taken on quality improvement projects, performance improvement studies, and analysis of the development of a new service line or redesign of an existing one. A few examples:

What are the deliverables to complete in the project?

The DNP Project course (N740PE) includes 90 hours of practice experiences that are mostly spent on refining a student’s project. Students spend more time on their project in other DNP courses—in fact, three courses in the program require students to complete 90 PE hours on their project. A few other things to know:

  • Refining scope – Students spend the first half of their degree refining their project’s scope. This culminates in a defense of the project proposal to the student’s chair, committee member and nursing leadership in a closed session.
  • IRB approval and data collection – Upon successful completion of the proposal defense, students will spend the second half of their program obtaining Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval that will allow them to collect data at their facility and implement their research
  • Final defense – Students will then be expected to defend their results in a final defense consisting of their chair, committee member, and nursing leadership in an open session were students and other invited guests may attend.

What are practice experiences?

The practice experiences that are part of the DNP project are essentially the scholarly work that students put into the projects themselves. In addition, DNP students complete practice learning experiences and precepted practice experiences in their workplace or other healthcare settings. Students must have clinical hours from an MSN or other nursing-specific degree program, and those 400 hours apply to the required 1,000 of the DNP program.

The DNP project is one of the many ways that the American Sentinel DNP program is truly a practice-focused program. It helps students develop a professional portfolio of a tangible, well-researched project that they can (and often do) apply in their organization. It is intended to help students grow as leaders.

“When I think about nursing and the role I play, I realize that I am in the specialty area of nursing that I know I was meant for. I’ve had my own very serious health issues. Not every nurse feels comfortable talking with patients about end-of-life decisions. I feel like I am made for this position.”

Tammy Stokes,
MSN Nursing Management and Organizational Leadership (2018),
Director of Palliative Care Services at Maury Regional Medical Center

For those wanting to advance to leadership positions in education, hospital management, informatics or other related areas, consider American Sentinel’s online DNP program, with specializations in Executive Leadership, Educational Leadership, Informatics Leadership and Professional Leadership.

Check out our blog about DNP specialties to help you make this decision.

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