Obtaining a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is a monumental accomplishment for any nurse, but reaching the pinnacle of your education is no easy feat. A significant component of the DNP program includes the implementation of an evidence-based quality-improvement project through immersion hours in a healthcare facility. However, finding a practicum site that supports and allows you to implement your DNP project can understandably feel overwhelming.
Here’s a seven-step guide to help you have a smooth, efficient, and stress-free process for finding a DNP project site.
1. First, find out your program’s requirements
You won’t be able to secure a project site without going over your school’s requirements first. Plus, you don’t want to waste any precious time on finding a site that can’t be approved.
- Determine how many immersion hours are required for your DNP. Immersion hours are supervised hours in a variety of settings. For example, Aspen University’s online DNP program requires 1,000 immersion hours.
- Review your school’s DNP curriculum and handbook to find all requirements.
- Your handbook should also contain a Practicum Site Agreement, Preceptor Agreement, Student Profile, and Immersion Approval letter.
Some programs also don’t allow students to complete immersion hours at their workplace, while others have no preference.
Aspen University permits DNP students to complete immersion hours at their place of employment. But the on-site preceptor must be supervised by a faculty member and be a doctoral-prepared professional with experience in health leadership, be affiliated with the site, and have knowledge of your project topic.
2. Figure out your patient population and project focus
Knowing your project topic and the population at focus is key in determining which site is the best choice for your DNP project implementation. Once you have those factors at hand, consider various sites that support your project goal. For example, if your focus is on patients with diabetes, you can pick a site that treats and supports people with diabetes, such as an endocrinologist, a podiatrist, or primary care office.
At Aspen University, many DNP graduates complete their immersion hours in their own place of employment. It’s not required or necessary to use your workplace as a project site. Still, you may find it easier to implement a project based on the patient population you’re already familiar with.
Are you having a difficult time deciding on a project focus? Check out these tips for identifying your DNP project topic.
3. Use your contacts
Have you already established your project focus? You can use nursing and industry contacts as your first step in obtaining a project site. Using the previous diabetes topic example, do you know any endocrinologists? Reach out to them and see if they can provide you with stakeholder support.
Whenever reaching out to a professional contact, remember to:
- Demonstrate your connection with them
- Be clear and concise with your ask
- Double-check your spelling and grammar in emails
- Be considerate of their time
- Follow up with them
4. Have a few backup project sites
Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. If you have a potential project site in mind, make sure to have a couple of backup choices just in case. The most successful DNP students have two potential project ideas or topics of interest and multiple potential project sites for each topic.
Sometimes potential project sites may be agreeable at first and then change their minds, so always have at least two extra ones that may work for your DNP topic.
5. Schedule and prepare for a meeting with the location
Once you have at least two potential project sites, call the site and schedule a meeting with the person in charge. This may be a physician, nurse manager, or supervisor.
Create a brief PowerPoint presentation with the following:
1. Problem statement
2. Background of the problem with local and national statistics
3. Complications that the problem can cause such as:
- Further illnesses
- Financial implications
4. Effects the problem has on the project site’s patients
5. A potential solution to the problem
- You can use your PICOT question as a guide—Population/Patient Problem, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, and Time.
6. “Thank you” emails go a long way
Time is very valuable, and thanking those potential stakeholders who listened to your DNP project idea will leave them with a good impression of you. About two days after your meeting, remember to thank them by sending an email or card to those you met with.
Make sure that you always write a summary of the meeting with your note so that they remember who you are—in case multiple DNP students attempt to obtain that project site for their project.
7. Follow-up with the potential project sites
If you haven’t heard back from a project site within one week of your meeting, don’t be afraid to follow up. Many times people get busy and truly forget to get back to you. If this happens, make sure to send a follow-up email or contact the person you met with via a phone call.
Throughout your DNP journey, certain tasks can feel stressful, including finding a supportive project site. However, if you are proactive in obtaining a practicum site and are prepared with what you need to receive support, securing a location will be a piece of cake. You’ll be one step closer to accomplishing your doctorate degree in nursing!
If you’re ready to take the leap in your doctoral education, consider Aspen University’s online DNP program.
Dr. Margarita David is a doctorally-prepared Registered Nurse, #1 Bestselling Author, and founder of the Dr. Registered Nurse Success Academy, LLC. that provides tutoring, mentoring and consulting to prospective nurses, nurses, and students in graduate and doctoral studies. Dr. David also has a YouTube channel called Dr. Registered Nurse, where she makes videos on hard-to-understand nursing school concepts easy to comprehend. She also holds a Bachelor in Business Management & Administration and a Masters in Nursing Education and Leadership. She has been married for over 20 years and is a mother of three! Follow her on Instagram and YouTube!