Online DNP

DNP Practice Project

Apply research to your practice and present solutions to today’s health care challenges.

Research drives health care. It defines the procedures, policies and patient care measures that keep everything in motion. That’s why we require all of our DNP students to complete a practice project. Through the DNP Practice Project, you’ll have an opportunity to blend leadership and patient care into a project that highlights practical evaluation based on a topic of your choice. Your project should be focused on patient outcomes, quality improvement and clinical practice, which means you will need direct access to patients to test your theories and complete your project.

As part of your application to Duquesne University’s online DNP program, you will need to highlight your proposed project topic or idea and how it relates to one of the eight essentials outlined in The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice, published by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). For more information on what to include in your DNP application, contact your enrollment advisor.

What is the DNP Practice Project?

Certain areas in health care need more improvement than others, and your DNP Practice Project will help you identify one specific problem you see in patient care or clinical practice and empower you to present solutions. Your project will cover the planning, implementation and evaluation of a new process, program or practice model that you’ve introduced into a health care setting.

While your practice project will highlight an area of quality improvement in patient care and clinical practice, it should also reflect a topic of personal interest since you will be working on this project for the two years you’re enrolled in Duquesne’s DNP program.*

To complete your DNP project, you will be required to review previous research and literature, while also taking an active role in performing the steps necessary to resolve the issue you have identified. The conclusion you reach should guide ideas for future policies and procedures that will improve patient care and clinical practice.

Your final project will reference your prior and current educational experiences, outline your immersion experience in the health care setting where you are implementing your project, and summarize your findings and areas of opportunity for future projects.

*The DNP project is outlined by the AACN and is a component of all Doctor of Nursing Practice programs available, though you may also see it referred to as a capstone or final project.*

What is the purpose of the DNP Practice Project?

Since the DNP is a doctoral program rooted in practice-focused competencies and designed to prepare graduates to become leaders and experts in advanced nursing practice, the DNP project is designed as a way to exhibit all you have learned. You will present your project during your immersion experience, concluding with sustainable plans and an evaluation of the expected processes or outcomes.

Unlike PhD in Nursing programs that require a dissertation rooted in research and theory, Doctor of Nursing programs require a DNP project to highlight practical experiences and an understanding of putting research into practice.

According to the AACN, the DNP project allows students to merge new skills from their DNP courses and demonstrate their abilities to take existing nursing research and turn it into evidence-based practice. The association also believes that all DNP projects should focus on impacting health care outcomes through direct or indirect patient care through a system or specific population focus.

Tips for Developing Your DNP Practice Project

Since the DNP Practice Project takes two years to complete, it’s important for you to choose a topic that you’re passionate about — one that you’ll continue to gain interest in the more you research and learn about it. When selecting your project idea, you should also consider if your organization has any specific needs that you could support through this project. That way, you can both benefit from the work you do through the DNP Practice Project.

As you continue to work and maintain your home life while completing this project, making time to focus on your program and project tasks will be essential to the success of both. Set a schedule for yourself each week and make adjustments as needed until you’ve found a balance that works for you.

Resources that can guide your research:

  • Writing Center: This center provides consultants to assist you in becoming a better writer. They can give you feedback on a writing project and offer one-on-one assistance at all stages of the writing process.
  • Gumberg Library: Even though you’re an online student, you’ll still be able to access resources through the Gumberg Library system. Resources like academic articles and databases will help guide your research.
  • Nursing Information Technology Support
  • Blackboard Help Desk
  • Statistician Support

Examples of DNP Practice Projects Completed by Duquesne Graduates

  • Toolkit of resources available in the community to better assist emergency rooms with homeless patients
  • Assessing and evaluating parents’ education to better recognize pediatric asthma symptoms and reduce readmissions
  • Reducing heart failure readmissions
  • Does “Video-Connect” improve access to care for generation Z and the millennials veteran population?
  • Program evaluations — study of treatment of PTSD in military
  • Evaluation of nurse retention programs


What to Expect from Your DNP Practice Project Experience with Duquesne

On-Campus Orientation and Visits

As an online DNP student with Duquesne University, you are required to participate in two on-campus visits throughout the course of the DNP program.

During the first few weeks of the first semester you will join us on campus in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh to participate in a two- to three-day orientation. Being on campus will give you the opportunity to network with other students, meet your faculty mentor in person and understand more about the Practice Project and expectations. Sessions will also focus on scholarly writing and presentation skills.

The second time you are asked to come to campus is at the end of the DNP program to present your DNP Practice Project to faculty and fellow classmates. This will also give you another chance to network with other students and connect with faculty members from whom you have learned over the past two years.

Faculty Mentors

student sitting with faculty mentor

As you work to complete your DNP Practice Project, you will be matched with a Duquesne University faculty member who will act as a mentor throughout your time as a DNP student. You will meet regularly with your faculty mentor to ensure that your practice project is on the right track.

Faculty mentors are responsible for evaluating your outcomes, the appropriateness of your DNP project and the setting of your practicum hours as they relate to the DNP Essentials. That means your faculty mentor is not responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of your project; they will focus only on the evaluation of the final project itself.

We do our best to pair students with faculty mentors who are experienced on the subject matter of the student’s practice project, and while we aim to do this for all students, it is not guaranteed.

Completing Your Practice Hours

Duquesne University’s online DNP program complies with the AACN’s recommendations that the DNP practice experience is composed of 1,000 practicum experience hours.* These hours are meant to provide students with the opportunity to increase their comprehension of complex factors focused on advanced specialty practice and the eight DNP essentials.

For Duquesne’s DNP program, these hours are achieved through various avenues. Hours may be granted while you:

  • Read and review case studies
  • Participate in the immersion experience
  • Work on writing your presentation
  • Attend conferences related to your project topic
  • Go on a mission trip and provide nursing care
  • Complete DNP Residency I & II courses

*Students with an advanced practice NP master’s degree are automatically granted 500 hours due to their prior post-baccalaureate experience. All other students must provide their advanced practice certification to transfer 500 hours from their master’s program.