Developing a Discharge Planning Process for a Specific Patient Population: Develop an evidence-based discharge planning process for patients with a certain diagnosis (ex: heart failure, total joint replacement, etc.). Research best practices and develop a draft plan including tasks from admission through discharge, appropriate staff roles, patient/family education components, follow-up needs, and metrics for evaluation. Provide a literature review to support the components of the plan. Obtain necessary approvals and help implement the new process, then evaluate its effectiveness.
Implementing a Fall Prevention Program: Falls are a serious issue for many hospitals and patients. Research evidence-based fall prevention strategies and develop a comprehensive fall prevention program for a specific unit or patient population. Elements may include a falls risk assessment tool, individualized care plans, staff education, environmental safety checks, signage/reminders, etc. Develop tools and resources needed and help implement the new program. Evaluate its impact on falls rates, injuries, length of stay, and other metrics over time.
Establishing an Evidence-Based Protocol: Identify a clinical issue or problem faced by patients for which practice varies or may not fully align with best evidence. Conduct an exhaustive literature review to evaluate best practices and develop an evidence-based, standardized protocol or clinical practice guideline. Obtain necessary approvals and help disseminate the new protocol. Develop an evaluation plan to assess its impact on identified outcomes.
Improving Chronic Disease Management: Choose a specific chronic disease such as diabetes, heart failure, COPD, etc. Research best practices for holistic, patient-centered management across the continuum of care. Develop a proposed model of care, resources and tools to help patients better self-manage. This may involve elements such as: an interdisciplinary care team approach, standardized assessments, individualized care/education plans, transition planning, community resource guides, follow-up protocols, dashboard for monitoring outcomes. Pilot test the program with a small group of patients and evaluate its feasibility and potential impact on relevant outcomes.
Enhancing Support for New Nurses: Many new nurses experience stress and difficulties in transitioning to practice. Research commonly reported challenges and develop an enhanced new nurse orientation/support program. Elements could include: additional simulation/skills sessions, dedicated preceptors, a post-orientation support group, evidence-based resiliency training, individualized professional development planning, mentorship opportunities. Create necessary resources and present the proposed enhanced program to leadership for consideration of implementation.
Improving Discharge Teaching: Assess current discharge teaching methods and identify opportunities for enhancement based on best practices. Examples could be: development of easy-to-read colorful laminated guides for specific conditions/procedures, teach back methodology lessons for nurses, individualized multimedia/video instruction modules, online patient portals for post-discharge questions. Pilot test redeveloped materials and teaching approaches with a sample of patients to evaluate understanding and feasibility of a wider rollout.
Easing the Burden of Family Caregivers: Research challenges commonly faced by family caregivers of vulnerable populations such as elders, palliative patients, or those with chronic conditions. Propose a multifaceted program of support including: support groups, educational workshops, skills training (lifting/transfers), self-care guidance, advance care planning assistance, community resource navigation. Develop necessary materials and present the proposed program to stakeholders for potential implementation and evaluation.
In each case, rigorous review of best evidence, interprofessional collaboration, input from end users, pilot testing, evaluation methodology and presentation to stakeholders are key components of a strong nursing capstone project. With careful planning and attention to sustainability, capstone projects have the potential for real-world impact in improving systems and outcomes.