Implementing a Capstone Course as a Means for Assessing Program Outcomes

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Nancy C. Falvo, PhD, MSN, BSN, RN
Department of Nursing; RN BSN program, Clarion University of PA, Oil City, PA, USA
Laurie Bladen, PhD, MBA/HCM, RN
Department of Nursing, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Coldwater, OH, USA

The purpose of this presentation is to describe the capstone course of an online RN BSN program. The capstone should provide a culminating experience requiring students to use the knowledge and skills learned throughout the program. Prior to the current curriculum, students developed hypothetical research proposal without data collection or analysis. The curriculum lacked a method for translating evidence into practical knowledge for our students. Moving to an evidence-based model for nursing education, an undergraduate research project is now required as part of the capstone course. Research studies are designed in the previous semester and evolve from the strategic plan priorities of the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR). Working in small groups, students receive IRB approval; complete their studies, and present finding to an online forum of students and faculty. The goal of this curriculum innovation is to create learning opportunities in research, which builds students’ professional knowledge and skills so that BSN nurses will practice nursing research competently in a changing health environment.  This curriculum innovation contributes to the health and quality of life of the clients served by BSN students.

The capstone course also serves as a means of assessing the RN BSN program outcomes. Through the use of reflection journals, students assess the outcomes of the RN to BSN program. Reflection journals encourages the student to consider their learning experiences for the curricular threads and comment on what they learned, how they learned it, and how they can apply the knowledge in their current position.  At the same time, students reflect on their discoveries and growth as a BSN nurse, which helps the students to identify successful principles to use again. Participants will learn about the teaching strategies to assist students in performing a pilot study. Participants will also learn creative solutions to assist students in reflecting upon what they have learned in the BSN program as well as how to use this knowledge in their future practice.