Senior Nursing Students Shine at Capstone Presentations

News Story: May 1, 2015

You can say more than four dozen Sacred Heart University senior nursing students put a “cap” on their undergraduate college careers as they demonstrated their comprehension in the field of nursing at a senior capstone event held Monday, April 27. Soon, caps and gowns will rule the day as they graduate from the University’s College of Nursing with their first professional degrees.

In all, 56 seniors will matriculate from the College of Nursing, having completed their requirements in public health and transitions to professional practice courses. The capstone event is essentially the final checkpoint, at which they present their senior clinical projects—a focus of the spring semester. The projects were directly related to nursing practice and included hospitals, public health departments, occupational health centers, public schools and senior centers where the students had interned.

Three faculty members—Professors Susan Goncalves, Michelle Cole and Eileen Yost—host the capstone event. They explained that each student has to assess the needs of the clinical site, collaborate with the preceptor and site educator to identify an educational need and then develop an evidence-based research project in the form of a poster or pamphlet that could be left at the site upon its completion for use by the nursing staff. These presentations, created specifically for the clinical site that hosted their preceptorship experience, were evaluated in the categories of role and responsibility of the nurse and evidence-based practice and research. In addition, the student’s project was evaluated for its developmental, cultural and age appropriateness regarding its target audience, in relation to patient-centered care and personal impact to the nursing role and professionalism. Finally, nursing competencies addressing interprofessional collaboration, quality improvement and safety were summarized.

“This event is the accumulation of a semester long clinical research project in which each student has the opportunity to showcase their research and demonstrate their understanding of nursing core competences, ” Yost notes. One titled “Fill My Plate” related to child obesity and was created by Christina Sepe, Paige Lassen, Sherry Choi, Caitlyn Egan and Dennis Hutt. It included images of fruit and vegetables affixed with Velcro to a “plate” pie chart divided into the major food groups.

“Kids—all second graders at Bridgeport’s Tisdale Elementary School—were challenged to place the images in the correct categories as a way of learning what should be part of a daily diet and proper nutrition,” Choi says.

Lassen adds, “We chose this topic for our public health class as we decided child obesity was a big problem at Bridgeport public schools. Financials are a barrier. So we created educational tools, like a brochure, to provide to kids and parents.”

Another team—Ann Conlon, Samantha Carros, Barbara Smith and Courtney Grillo—were placed at Bridgeport’s Ella Jackson Senior Center, under the guidance of SHU Professor Linda Strong, to assist senior citizens with their health issues. “It’s hard for seniors to find ways to exercise and relax, so we developed a program of yoga breathing and stretching exercises for them,” Grillo says.

Conlon notes, “The seniors actually suggested our topic and were very receptive to it. They had so much fun with it and were dancing.”

Goncalves said “the day was filled with mixed emotions for students and faculty as the students will be leaving SHU and transitioning into clinical practice, going their separate ways. We are so proud of each and every one of them.”

From a faculty perspective, Cole observes, “This is a moment of pride for us as they transition into becoming our colleagues as nursing professionals. The clinical feedback has been extremely positive regarding our students’ professionalism and nursing capabilities.”