What is a Capstone Like in Nursing School?

A capstone, often called a "senior capstone," has one essential purpose in any field: that of furthering the career advancement of those who complete it successfully. Because it is often presented as a prerequisite, the final course in a degree program, its value is based substantially on the reputation and accreditation of the institution that makes it available. It is a frequent part of programs in highly technical fields, academic fields (where it may be optional, though no less valuable) and medical fields. Increasingly, in recent years, it has become a regular part of nursing programs throughout the US.

What is a nursing school capstone like, and why should nursing students embrace it?

A Capstone Course Requires EBP Project Design

In many schools, the major focus of the senior capstone is on an EBP project. EBP is short for "evidence-based practice," and the idea is to reinforce a sound best practices viewpoint in the handling of critical situations, of the kind that are replete throughout the modern healthcare industry. Common focal points for projects such as these are on new ways to handle the spread of treatment-resistant infections within a healthcare setting, as well as ways to better organize and administer staffing and scheduling-related concerns. Typically, the student will work with a practicing professional on completing their capstone course, in order to provide practical, real-world experience in designing their project.

Working in a Practical Capacity

Establishing the necessary networking connections for a capstone project will often begin months before enrollment, as a qualified professional (themselves typically a capstone graduate) must be found to assist the student with completing their work. In itself, this demanding and rigorous schedule, which often corresponds with other intensive coursework occurring at the same time, is also a part of the student's capstone course. They must demonstrate their ability to think quickly, work under pressure, and resolve problems in a timely fashion — without potentially putting patients, their families, their coworkers, or the public at large at risk. There are many ways in which a bad decision made by a medical professional can put people at risk, and the capstone is designed and formatted specifically to help weed out those behaviors.

The Goal of the Capstone Project

Through the completion of their capstone, a nursing student is expected to demonstrate their ability to create evidence-based analyses for critical situations in a healthcare environment. However, there's more to it than that: the student will have demonstrated their awareness of the importance of the field of nursing within modern healthcare, as well as their ability to explain that importance to others. Finally, they will have shown their ability to disseminate knowledge of key issues facing the healthcare industry today, within an academic environment. In so doing, they demonstrate their ability to perform administrative and educational functions, marking them as candidates for assisting future nurses in either capacity. This makes the capstone a tremendous opportunity for promoting career growth, in multiple different directions.

A senior nursing school capstone is intensive, demanding, and is based heavily upon a student's ability to analyze and apply empirical evidence to solving a particular problem. Through their successful completion of a capstone project, a nursing student marks themselves as being capable of thinking on their feet, and of using practical experience to solve serious issues in today's clinical healthcare environment. Such an individual makes a much more desirable candidate for employment, and also qualifies them for additional training and administrative authority.

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