Journal of Nursing Education

Educational Innovations 

Transitioning the Doctor of Nursing Practice Final Project Defense to Large Venue Poster Sessions

Valerie Griffin, DNP, PPCNP-BC, FNP-BC, PMHS, FAANP; Andrew Griffin, PhD, CRNA; Kevin Stein, DNAP, CRNA; Juliet Kerico Gray, MLS

Abstract

Background:

Accelerated growth in Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs has mandated the need for innovative strategies for doctoral students to defend their final scholarly work while protecting the integrity and rigor of the experience.

Method:

A poster defense strategy was implemented and evaluated via a faculty focus group and a Likert-scale survey. Sessions highlighting eight projects each were scheduled at 75-minute intervals allowing for both informal poster viewing and formal audience questioning facilitated by a moderator. Evaluation of the event trended positive, with focus group members celebrating the energy around each session, noting the significant increase in audience size compared to past podium defenses.

Conclusion:

Evaluators who attended previous DNP project defenses all indicated that the large venue poster session approach was just as or more effective than previous methods. [J Nurs Educ. 2020;59(1):51–53.]

Abstract

Background:

Accelerated growth in Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs has mandated the need for innovative strategies for doctoral students to defend their final scholarly work while protecting the integrity and rigor of the experience.

Method:

A poster defense strategy was implemented and evaluated via a faculty focus group and a Likert-scale survey. Sessions highlighting eight projects each were scheduled at 75-minute intervals allowing for both informal poster viewing and formal audience questioning facilitated by a moderator. Evaluation of the event trended positive, with focus group members celebrating the energy around each session, noting the significant increase in audience size compared to past podium defenses.

Conclusion:

Evaluators who attended previous DNP project defenses all indicated that the large venue poster session approach was just as or more effective than previous methods. [J Nurs Educ. 2020;59(1):51–53.]

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2015) recommended the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) project to serve as a foundation for future nursing scholarship among nurses receiving the practice doctorate. The DNP project should highlight a student's educational experiences, focusing on knowledge and expertise gained throughout the curriculum. Accelerated growth in DNP program enrollment has mandated the need for innovative strategies designed to efficiently maintain rigor in the DNP project dissemination process. With current DNP projects at a midwestern school of nursing numbering in the hundreds, a more creative method was required to provide an appropriate venue for oral dissemination, while protecting the integrity and rigor of the DNP project experience. Traditionally, standard podium presentations were an effective means for doctoral students to present their final scholarly work. Stakeholders at universities need to consider that podium presentations can be stressful for presenters and time consuming for faculty, who already are experiencing increased job-related demands related to a national nursing faculty shortage.

The presentation of the DNP project is likely the first opportunity for students to disseminate scholarly work in a formal manner. Posters are a popular format for disseminating evidence-based practice projects (Berg & Hicks, 2017; Pierce, 2016). Poster sessions can be a less stressful method of presenting information to larger audiences, thereby increasing confidence in the presenter for future scholarship. Immediate feedback from faculty and peers can be beneficial to the student. This type of professional setting allows students to answer questions about their scholarly work, while enhancing communication and networking skills (Christenbery & Latham, 2013). Miller (2007) reported that the presenter determines the focus of the presentation during a speech delivery format, contrary to a poster presentation where the viewer controls the focus. This method of dissemination is more interactive than a podium presentation, allowing for engaging conversations with the audience members (Miller, 2007; Rowe & Ilic, 2009). Students have the opportunity to address members of other disciplines and inform people with varying levels of knowledge related to the topic. Even though students are knowledgeable about their project and the outcomes, they have the opportunity to learn from engaging conversation with audience members.

Goals of Transitioning to the Large Venue Poster Session

A midwestern school of nursing began the DNP degree with post-master's students. When the first student group was ready for oral dissemination of the DNP project, a podium presentation was implemented. During the first year, there were only eight presentations to schedule. We decided on a 2-day schedule, allowing approximately 1 hour for each student presentation to include a question-and-answer period and time to transition to the next presentation. Audience fatigue led to less engagement at each subsequent presentation. Therefore, those presenting near the end of the day were demonstrating less audience participation.

In 2015, the school of nursing moved the certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) and the family nurse practitioner programs from a master's to a doctorate level. At this same time, the post-master's program enrollment began to experience significant growth. Due to increasing enrollment in the three programs and the need to accommodate oral dissemination, we implemented a poster presentation in place of the traditional podium presentation. With this transition, it was important to protect the integrity of the experience for students, faculty, and stakeholders. In some ways, our poster presentation experience is not much different than one at a regional or national conference; however, emphasis was placed on a formal question-and-answer session immediately following the informal viewing period.

Method

To evaluate the use of the new format, a formal process of evaluation was planned and implemented. The institutional review board at the university approved the evaluation initiative. The evaluation plan included two distinct components: (a) questionnaires with Likert-scale response options offered to all presenters and attendees, and (b) a focus group discussion among faculty members who attended the event. In order to understand the evaluation results, it is important to fully understand the format of the DNP poster event. The following paragraphs in this section are used to describe the specifics.

The poster defense strategy was implemented in spring 2018. The event schedule included multiple individual sessions throughout the day. Students submitted their abstracts in March, and a poster session booklet was developed highlighting each project. The program booklet included the schedule, student/group names, and project abstracts. Audience members could choose from the abstracts that interested them. This allowed the audience to focus their time during the informal poster viewing. It was not our intent for every audience member to personally view each one of the posters.

The event was held at the university center. An average of 120 people attended the sessions, live and online. A podium was staged in front with chairs set up in rows for audience members. Posters were displayed on each side of the room. Sessions, highlighting eight projects each, were scheduled at 75-minute intervals. Each session was divided into two phases, including an informal poster viewing and a formal audience questioning, moderated by one of the faculty.

We scheduled the poster presentations to include scholarly work from an even distribution of the three student programs in order to maximize audience participation and interaction. We wanted to have diverse presentations so that the event would be more heterogeneous for the audience.

During phase one, the poster viewing session, audience members browsed the various posters while students stood next to their posters and answered generalized audience member questions about their scholarly work. Through this process, audience members gained a better understanding of the DNP project to include the initial problem, project methods, and subsequent project outcomes.

During phase two, the formal question-and-answer session, students were asked questions from the audience. A faculty moderator was assigned to keep the session moving along by fielding questions from audience members to the appropriate student or group. If there were no questions directed to a particular student or group, the moderator was prepared to ask one of their own questions in order to give each student or group time to speak about their project. We offered Web conferencing availability for distant audience members—these individuals were given an electronic version of each poster. However, they were not able to interact during informal poster viewing. We had a representative who monitored the virtual meeting room and who could ask questions for online participants during the formal question-and-answer period.

At the end of each session, participants were provided a paper survey—not everyone who attended completed the survey as it was not mandated. Online participants were able to access the survey via Qualtrics™. The faculty focus group was conducted at the conclusion of the day.

Results

A total of 62 students, student presenters, faculty, and community members returned questionnaires, and approximately 12 graduate faculty attended the focus group. The participant survey began with demographic questions designed to identify the type of participant and whether they participated face-to-face or online. Following the demographic information, the survey consisted of 22 positively constructed questions, with 7-point Likert response options ranging from (1) strongly disagree to (7) strongly agree. The initial 18 questions were directly related to the event and the final four were related to the individual posters. If a participant attended the previous podium format, there was an option to answer one additional question comparing the two processes.

All responses to items on the survey trended positively with 20 factors averaging over 6 on the 7-point Likert scale. All evaluators who attended previous DNP project podium presentation sessions indicated that this venue was just as, or more effective than, previous methods.

In response to the survey question “I believe poster sessions provided the student with sufficient opportunity to defend their DNP final project,” the mean for all participants was 6.25. In response to the survey question, “I believe this was a good leadership experience for the students,” the mean for all participants was 6.51. Given that the DNP project focuses on leadership within the advanced practice registered nurse role, we felt these results reflected the level of quality within our DNP project experience. “The posters were reflective of the DNP project experience” averaged 6.30 from all participants. Again, the DNP project was designed to demonstrate clinical scholarship. As graduate-level nursing program leaders, we are charged with supporting innovation in the design and dissemination of the DNP project to reflect the changing health care environment.

The final question, “As compared to previous DNP podium presentations, I believe the poster defense sessions were much less effective to much more effective” was asked only of people who had attended previous podium presentations and was comparing the new method of dissemination. The response means fell between “somewhat more effective” to “more effective.”

The positive survey results were also reinforced during the focus group discussion that resulted in three major themes. The first and most overwhelming response was regarding the positive energy in the room. Faculty thought the event was much more inspiring than previous podium defense sessions. The faculty indicated the energy was almost palpable and viewed the event as a huge success. This year's excitement greatly contrasted the feeling of fatigue expressed by many who attended last year's podium presentation event. Part of this could be relative to the audience numbers, which exceeded 100. This sentiment was echoed in the comment section of the participant survey with statements such as, “I was pleasantly surprised by the whole process. It was professional, yet relaxed. I did not feel overwhelmed by the experience.” Although a large number of presentations were offered at this event, attendees expressed that the format was effective in allowing students sufficient time to present their work. One attendee commented, “Given the number of students, this was very efficient and effective!” whereas another attendee stated, “Very effective, provided a nonthreatening environment for students.” Several additional positive remarks were made about the format, including, “I like the interaction between students and observers first. I feel this helped spark questions. I was very impressed with the value and organization of projects.”

Another theme of the focus group was related to faculty being able to evaluate the DNP projects. Overall, it was felt that the venue offered more than ample opportunity to review and evaluate the projects. However, faculty expressed and discussed some concerns that students might not have felt that they had enough opportunity to showcase their work. One faculty participant responded, “I thought it was unfair to some of the students that others monopolized the floor. I think everyone should be granted equal time to discuss their project and be able to say how their project impacts practice, since that's the whole point of the degree.” However, this concern was not reflected in student presenters' responses to survey questions. One of the student presenters remarked, “The Q & A [question-and-answer] session was the best part because we got to really argue our case.” Although the faculty attendees were aware of the time constraints relative to the growing number of projects, a recommendation was made to extend session time. This would allow each student or student group 1 to 2 minutes of time to introduce themselves and their project at the beginning of the formal questioning segment of each session.

The final theme of the focus group discussion was regarding the venue. Concerns were expressed about the size and use of the room, as well as traffic patterns related to poster viewing. Recommendations for a larger room and for alternating poster placement relative to specialization focus were indicated.

Conclusion

Overall, we felt strongly that the poster presentation day as a method of oral dissemination for the DNP project met our goals as time efficient and exceeded our expectations related to the quality of the experience. With graduating doctoral student numbers increasing further next year, we plan to continue the use of poster presentation sessions for oral dissemination of our DNP projects. In an effort to improve the quality, we plan to take the responses from this study and incorporate them into future events. The 2019 DNP Poster Presentation day will include adjustments in room arrangement, time allotment, and the addition of continuing education offerings through collaboration with three nursing organizations and regional health care partners.

A bigger room was requested allowing for all posters to be placed in the front of the room, and we will use cordless microphones so students can remain by their posters during the formal question-and-answer session. Posters will not be clustered per program, as there seemed to be more audience members congregating around the CRNA side of the room last year. We want to allow enough space for the audience to view the posters and to be able to communicate any questions to the student presenters during the informal viewing session. We are allowing less time to set up posters but added 20 minutes to the formal question-and-answer session. This extra time will allow for a 1- to 2-minute presentation by each student/group to introduce their project. We believe this will satisfy feedback about giving each student/group time to highlight their scholarly work. We want each student to feel the pride that accompanies the summarization of their hard work throughout the program.

Finally, we are collaborating with three organizations this year as event partners and plan to offer continuing education units for each session. Positive feedback from community members and subsequent discussions with community stake-holders led to this particular improvement.

The poster presentation format implemented by this school of nursing has been well received by faculty, students, and community members as an effective and high-quality replacement for the antiquated podium presentation format that has become increasingly burdensome on both students and faculty.

References

  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2015). The doctor of nursing practice: Current issues and clarifying recommendations. Retrieved from https://www.aacnnursing.org/Portals/42/DNP/DNP-Implementation.pdf
  • Berg, J. & Hicks, R. (2017). Successful design and delivery of a professional poster. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 29, 461–469. doi:10.1002/2327-6924.12478 [CrossRef]28657658
  • Christenbery, T. & Latham, T. (2013). Creating effective scholarly posters: A guide for DNP students. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 25, 16–23. doi:10.1111/j.1745-7599.2012.00790.x [CrossRef]23279275
  • Miller, J. (2007). Preparing and presenting effective research posters. Health Services Research, 42(1), 311–328. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2006.00588.x [CrossRef]17355594
  • Pierce, L. (2016). The e-poster conference: An online nursing research course learning activity. Journal of Nursing Education, 55, 533–535. doi:10.3928/01484834-20160816-08 [CrossRef]27560122
  • Rowe, N. & Ilic, D. (2009). What impact do posters have on academic knowledge transfer? A pilot survey on author attitudes and experiences. BMC Medical Education, 9, 71. doi:10.1186/1472-6920-9-71 [CrossRef]19995448
Authors

Dr. Valerie Griffin is Assistant Clinical Professor and Director of Nurse Practitioner Specializations, Dr. Andrew Griffin is Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs and Associate Professor, Dr. Stein is Program Director and Assistant Professor, Anesthesia Specialization, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Nursing, and Ms. Gray is Health Sciences Librarian, Associate Professor, Interim Director of Research Commons and Interim Assistant Dean, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Library and Information Services, Carbondale, Illinois.

The authors have disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Valerie Griffin, DNP, PPCNP-BC, FNP-BC, PMHS, FAANP, Assistant Clinical Professor and Director of Nurse Practitioner Specializations, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Nursing, Alumni Hall, Box 1066, Edwardsville, IL 62026; e-mail: vgriffi@siue.edu.

Received: May 23, 2019
Accepted: September 23, 2019

10.3928/01484834-20191223-12

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