WHAT ARE SOME POTENTIAL CHALLENGES THAT NURSING STUDENTS MIGHT FACE WHEN CONDUCTING THESE CAPSTONE PROJECTS?

One major challenge is selecting an appropriate topic for the capstone project. Nursing students have a wide range of clinical areas and patient populations they could explore. It’s important to pick a topic that is interesting to the student but also has relevance to current nursing practice. Students should consider topics where they may be able to collect meaningful data rather than choose something too broad or vague. Speaking to nursing instructors, medical staff, and conducting preliminary research can help identify suitable options.

Once a topic is chosen, a second challenge is developing rigorous and achievable research questions or project aims and objectives. Nursing research questions should be realistic yet address a clear evidence gap or area for quality improvement. Objectives need to be specific, measurable, and attainable within the allotted timeframe. Students may struggle with formulating tightly focused questions or aims that can realistically be explored within the scope of a capstone project. Working closely with capstone supervisors and requesting multiple rounds of feedback on research questions can help refine their scope.

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Gaining the necessary approvals from institutions to conduct research on human subjects is another hurdle nursing students may face. For projects involving collection of primary data from patients, gaining ethics approval can be time-consuming. Late applications risk delays in being able to start the data collection phase on time. To avoid this issue, students must allow adequate time for ethics review and be prepared to modify their protocols based on reviewer feedback. It also helps to consult with supervisors who are familiar with local research ethics processes.

Recruiting sufficient participants who meet eligibility criteria can pose challenges, especially if relying on voluntary recruitment through posters or referrals. Low recruitment may threaten the validity and generalizability of findings. This is more likely for niche topics with small populations. Contingency plans should be made for alternative recruitment strategies or broader inclusion criteria if needed. Pilot testing promotional materials can give students insight into anticipated recruitment rates.

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Students may find synthesizing and analyzing data from multiple sources difficult without prior experience or training in research methodologies. Interpreting statistical or qualitative findings responsibly requires an understanding of the assumptions, limitations, and potential for bias in different methodological approaches. Seeking statistical or qualitative data analysis assistance from expert resources on campus can help ensure rigour. Professors and librarians can also guide students on techniques for critically appraising existing literature.

Another common hurdle is time management. Capstone projects have firm deadlines but unforeseen delays are inevitable. Effective planning with buffers, regular supervision meetings, and dividing work into sub-tasks are vital for staying on schedule. Students should identify potential time sinks early, such as developing protocols or obtaining approvals, and work on these first. Strict self-discipline is needed to balance coursework with project responsibilities. Learning to say “no” to unnecessary commitments preserves focus on the capstone.

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Presenting research findings confidently is a challenge for many students. Opportunities to practice poster or oral presentations throughout the capstone process, such as at nursing conferences, improve presentation skillswell before the final defense. Students should practice emphasizing key takeaways clearly and fielding questions from different audiences. Peer review of one’s presentation style provides honesty needed to enhance communication impact.

Nursing students will face various expected challenges when conducting independent capstone research projects. With early and thorough planning, seeking guidance from supervisors and resources, contingency planning for delays, disciplined time management, and practice presenting, students can successfully overcome hurdles to complete rigorous and meaningful research. The capstone experience equips new nurses with transferable skills in evidence-based practice, research methodology, project management, critical thinking, and communication.

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