Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Projects in the Mount Sinai Health System: Frequently Asked Questions and Tips for Success

Knowing the process for conducting your DNP project at MSHS will help ensure that your project is completed in accordance with MSHS policies and your graduation timeline. This guide is designed to help MSHS nurses enrolled in DNP programs navigate the process of choosing a topic, developing a protocol, and obtaining the necessary approvals to complete the project. 

Part I. Frequently asked questions about DNP projects at MSHS

Can I do my DNP project at MSHS?

Yes! DNP projects offer a learning opportunity and an opportunity for the organization to improve processes and quality of care.

Am I free to choose my own DNP project topic?

Yes! Many DNP students come up with their own project ideas based on their clinical experience and observations.

If you have not decided on a specific idea or topic, we recommend speaking with nursing leadership in your clinical area to identify a need that you can address. We also recommend consulting your hospital’s strategic plan and aligning your project with the needs and goals of the organization.

What permissions do I need to have in place prior to beginning my project?

  • All nurse-led evidence-based practice (EBP), quality improvement (QI), and research projects at MSHS must be reviewed by the Nursing Project Approval Council (NPAC) before they begin. Some projects will require additional review by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) following NPAC approval. NPAC will let you know whether IRB review is required for your project; you do not need to contact the IRB directly.
  • DNP students should consult with nursing leadership in the unit or department where the project will be conducted in order to (1) obtain permission to carry out the project and (2) determine whether there are any additional review requirements specific to that clinical area (e.g., a local quality committee). Note: Your NPAC submission will require a letter of support from the nurse leader in the unit or department where the project will be conducted.
  • DNP students should consult with their academic advisors to ensure that their project meets the curriculum requirements and is approved by the appropriate review bodies within the school. Your NPAC submission will require (1) a letter of approval from your DNP advisor or committee stating that you have successfully defended your project proposal and (2) a letter from the IRB or other appropriate review body at your school* stating that they have approved your project (*unless your school requires MSHS to review first, in which case, this requirement is waived).
  • DNP students should consult with Nursing Education/Professional Development in their hospital to ensure that the necessary agreements between the hospital and school are in place.

What is the Nursing Project Review Council (NPAC) and how do I submit my project for review?

  • NPAC is an MSHS council made up of nurses and nurse leaders from throughout the system. The purpose of NPAC is to ensure that projects are compliant with local and federal regulations governing data privacy and the protection of human subjects. NPAC works with the IRB to determine which projects require IRB review.
  • Projects are submitted to NPAC through REDCap. For more information about what materials you will need to submit and how to submit them, please see our guide titled The Nursing Project Approval Council (NPAC): Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How to Submit Your Project.
  • Projects approved by NPAC will receive a letter of approval. The letter will indicate (1) the project is approved as QI and can begin immediately or (2) the project is approved to begin once it has successfully completed IRB review.

Should I contact the IRB about my project?

No! The benefit of NPAC is that you do not need to contact the IRB unless NPAC refers your project for IRB review. If your project is referred for IRB review, NPAC will help guide you through that process.

Who should I reach out to if I have questions or need help?

The Center for Nursing Research and Innovation (CNRI) is available to assist you with planning, approving, and conducting your DNP project. Please reach out to with questions. We encourage you to contact us early in the planning process to help ensure the smooth and timely completion of your project.

Part II. Tips and considerations for your DNP project

1. Consider doing a project in the unit or area where you work.

Most DNP projects fall under the umbrella of QI. However, access to data for QI purposes is granted only to employees who normally interact with the population included in the project, or are responsible for overseeing quality in that area. If your project requires you to collect data outside of these parameters, it is considered research and will require IRB review. You are welcome to conduct a research project that requires IRB review, but please keep in mind that IRB review can take several months.

2. Familiarize yourself with the differences between EBP, QI, and research.

In partnership with the IRB, the NPAC developed standardized criteria for distinguishing EBP and QI projects from research projects that require IRB review.  For insight into which projects may require IRB review, please see our companion page titled Evidence-Based Practice, Quality Improvement, and Research: What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?

3. Contact the CNRI in the planning phase of your project.

Discussing your project with the CNRI early in the planning phase will help prepare you for successful NPAC review by (1) helping you consider how choices within your project plan could affect whether the project will require IRB review, (2) helping you consider the pros and cons of different design choices, and (3) preparing your documents for NPAC review.