An examination of the rigor and value of final scholarly projects completed by DNP nursing students

J Prof Nurs. 2018 Nov-Dec;34(6):437-443. doi: 10.1016/j.profnurs.2018.03.003. Epub 2018 Mar 29.


Background: Final scholarly projects are the culmination of the DNP educational process and as such reflect the achievement of doctoral level scholarship that prepares graduates to be leaders in providing high quality, accessible health care and creating health care systems that are effective and responsive to the needs of a diverse population.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the rigor and value of final scholarly projects being produced by DNP graduates in the United States.

Methods: Using the DNP Project Critical Appraisal Tool (DNP-PCAT) we appraised 65 DNP practice projects consecutively selected from online repositories and the ProQuest dissertation/theses database.

Findings: The mean total score for all projects was 78.27 out of a possible 141. Substantive problems were identified in all 16 components of the DNP-PCAT. Particularly concerning was a lack of critical evaluation of implementation and outcomes in many projects, including invalid data analysis.

Conclusions: The mean total score of 78.28, which is only 56% of the possible maximum score, and substantive problems identified, indicates that continued work is needed to ensure that DNP programs are universally graduating students prepared for rigorous practice-scholarship.

Keywords: Capstone project; DNP; Doctor of nursing practice; Doctoral education; Nursing education; Practice project; Scholarly projects.

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum
  • Education, Nursing, Graduate / organization & administration*
  • Faculty, Nursing
  • Humans
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Students, Nursing*
  • United States