Many PA students choose to do their capstone projects on topics related to common medical conditions. For example, one student did a project titled “Improving Treatment Adherence in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes through Telehealth Interventions.” For this project, the student conducted a literature review on telehealth programs that have been shown to help diabetic patients better manage their condition. She then proposed a plan for how her future clinical site could implement a similar telehealth program. Another popular medical topic is cancer. One project proposal was called “Increasing Lung Cancer Screening Rates Through Patient Education.” The student developed an educational brochure and video to teach at-risk patients about the benefits of early lung cancer screening with low-dose CT scans. She then planned to survey patients at her site on their knowledge before and after viewing the materials.
Infectious diseases are another common area for PA capstone topics. One project focused on “Outpatient Parenteral Antimicrobial Therapy (OPAT) as a Safe Alternative to Inpatient IV Antibiotics.” Through a review of the literature, the student demonstrated that OPAT can reduce healthcare costs and improve patient satisfaction compared to traditional inpatient IV treatment of certain infections. She proposed developing OPAT discharge protocols and educational materials for providers and patients at her clinical site. Another capstone involved a needs assessment on improving HPV vaccine rates in teenage girls through various implementation strategies tested at local urban clinics. Public health and preventative healthcare are popular areas for PA capstone projects given the emphasis on this in the PA profession.
In addition to treating medical conditions, some PA students choose to focus their capstone projects on other important healthcare issues like access to care, health policy, mental/behavioral health, and medical ethics. For example, one student proposed a project called “Addressing Barriers to Specialty Care Access in Underserved Rural Communities.” Through interviews with patients and providers, she identified transportation, long wait times for appointments, and lack of awareness of available services as key barriers. The student then designed and planned to implement new referral pathways and community education strategies to help bridge these gaps. Another capstone explored models of integrated primary care/behavioral health and made recommendations for how this collaborative care approach could better address high rates of depression and anxiety at the student’s future clinical rotation site. Projects involving ethics topics, like improving advanced care planning discussions or informing policy on issues like medical aid in dying, are also commonly seen.
With the heavy emphasis on research and evidence-based practice in the PA profession, public health epidemiology capstone topics are not uncommon. One project looked at “The Association Between Vaping and Respiratory Infections in Adolescents.” The student conducted a thorough literature review on current studies and compiled local health department data on vaping rates and respiratory illness diagnoses in teen patients. Statistical analysis was then planned to explore potential correlations. Another epidemiology-focused proposal titled “The Impact of Air Pollution on Asthma Exacerbations” involved collecting air quality and asthma emergency department visit data from a major city to examine seasonal or location-based trends. The student identified policy changes or education efforts that could help vulnerable groups based on the findings.
No matter the specific topic, PA capstone projects always require developing a comprehensive proposal and outline for how the student would implement the proposed research, analysis, needs assessment, program development or quality improvement initiative at their future clinical site. This provides them valuable experience in planning meaningful evidence-based practice projects that could directly impact patient care. By choosing topics related to conditions they may frequently encounter or broader healthcare issues, PA students are well-positioning themselves for their careers through these substantive senior-year capstone experiences.