FAQs: MSN Capstone

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We know pursuing your MSN can be stressful, and we get a lot of questions about the MSN Capstone. Don’t worry! Here’s everything you need to know.

What is a Capstone project? 

The Capstone is an individualized research project on a nursing topic of your professional or personal interest. Capstones provide you the opportunity to demonstrate your competency and commitment to ultimately improving health outcomes. It’s something to be proud of!

MSN students in all 5 nursing specializations are required to complete a Capstone. You will carry it out in the 8-week project-based Nursing Capstone course, where you will be assigned to a Capstone instructor — a member of the Aspen faculty who holds expertise in your particular topic. You will need to complete the Practicum and all of the previous courses within the MSN curriculum to enroll in the Capstone course. 

What is the Practicum?

The Practicum is a hands-on learning experience performed in a healthcare work setting under a preceptor’s supervision. It will heavily inform your Capstone. During this time, you will focus on an issue and create a viable solution through research.

The type of Practicum venue will depend on your MSN specialization, but options include hospitals, medical examiner’s office, public health department, clinical practice, and academic setting. You can use your workplace as a venue, but you must be off the clock and perform tasks outside your usual job description.

What’s the first step in writing my Capstone? 

You will select a project topic that focuses on the quality improvement of a process, policy, or procedure. Then you will create a proposal or presentation focused on a specific issue and target audience.  

  • Design or develop a curriculum
  • Use a shared governance model to increase nurse retention
  • Implement and evaluate an educational activity, such as health education in schools
  • Create a systematic review of the literature to support evidence-based change
  • Design and implement a change project (e. g., a proposal for a change in process)
  • Write a grant
  • Develop a policy and work with leaders to implement it
  • Analyze the healthcare system systematically in another geographic region
  • Develop or revise an existing business or marketing plan within nursing or healthcare organization
  • Advocate for legislative change for an issue important to nursing
  • Design an informatics solution to a nursing problem

Students in Forensic Nursing, Nursing Education, and Public Health must have a patient care component to their project. That means the project must involve a patient population and demonstrate outcomes for them. 

How do I choose my Capstone topic?
Ask yourself: 
  • What do you want your professional practice to look like in 10 years? 
  • What are you passionate about? 
  • What did you learn during your Practicum? 
  • Is there a nursing issue that really sticks out in your mind? 

Aspen alumni Phyllis D. (RN to MSN in Nursing Education) covered nurse bullying for her Capstone and submitted a manuscript for a peer-reviewed nursing magazine based on her research.

“I thought writing about it would help fellow nurses confront bullying activities and give additional resources so that supervisors are properly trained on spotting bullies,” she said.

Dr. Jeannie Randall, an Aspen instructor and Practicum Coordinator, emphasizes the impact students have on their communities with their Capstones and Practicum work. For example, she says one MSN student has had a significant influence on dental health for underserved pediatric patients in her community by working collaboratively with school health officials, nurses, dental, and other professionals. 

Dr. Randall says another student has been focused on infectious disease prevention in a school setting. She’s been educating students on disease transmission and prevention for COVID, the flu, and other illnesses and has even impacted policy across her state. 

Is it difficult to get approval for the Capstone topic?

Not at all. Our instructors ensure that. Since the Capstone relates to your Practicum, you’ll already have the foundation and knowledge for your topic once you’re in the Capstone course (N599). The main thing to keep in mind is that your topic should be focused on improving patient outcomes. 

What’s the format for the Nursing Capstone?

Your Final Capstone Project submission must be free of typographical, spelling, and grammatical errors. It must also be formatted using American Psychological Association (APA) style, which will give your paper uniform formatting when it comes to citing sources and provide clarity and consistency to your complex nursing topic. Knowing how to write in APA style is also an overall useful skill for nurses and adds to your professional credibility.

What is expected of me for the Capstone oral presentation portion?

It should last around 30 minutes long, and you will present through video conferencing media. The presentation allows you to demonstrate your knowledge in the field and how you can effectively discuss your findings. 

Who will see the Capstone oral presentation?

In addition to your instructor, Aspen faculty and administrative members may attend, along with others in your community who are interested in the topic and could be affected by your findings. The audience will also have the opportunity to ask questions about your work towards the end of your presentation. 

We offer specializations across the nursing field and have a knowledgeable and supportive faculty who are here to help you. Want to learn more about Aspen? Check out our frequently asked questions here.

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