Nursology Discipline-Specific Theory-Guided Practice for the DNP Student

Contributor: Deborah Lindell DNP, RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN
September 11, 2019

Description of the strategy

This activity is part of a 3 credit DNP course, “Theories for Nursing Practice and Scholarship” at Case Western Reserve University, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

The activity is designed to help meet two of the course objectives: 1) Analyze the relationships among theory, practice, and scholarship and 2) Develop strategies to support integration of theory into practice and scholarship. The activity also supports meeting the program outcomes. The specific objective of the activity is to use a set of criteria to systematically select a nursology discipline-specific theory or model to inform a plan for theory-guided practice; specifically, to address a system-level practice problem. Relevant content is covered in class and readings.

Students do the activity in small groups and share the outcome in a 25-minute oral presentation. The presentation includes the following components:

  • Practice problem
    • Describe a system- or population-level concern in your nursing practice setting.
  • Theory
    • Identify and analyze two nursology discipline-specific theories with relevance to understanding the practice concern.
    • Identify a set of criteria designed to guide evaluation of theory for practice.
    • Use the criteria to evaluate the two theories and select the theory with the best fit with practice concern.
    • Review the selected theory to gain a deep understanding.
  • Plan
    • Develop a theory-guided plan to address the practice concern.
    • Include at least two outcome objectives (SMART format) and outline the plan in Who, What, Where, When, How type format.
    • Describe how the outcome objectives will be evaluated.
    • Explain how the theory informed the plan.
  • Notes
    • The line of reasoning in selecting and applying the theory to the practice situation should be clear, logical, and carried throughout the project.
    • References are noted on the final slide.

A rubric, provided with the guidelines for the learning activity, is used to determine a score for the team. The activity is 20% of the overall course grade. Note: Each team is required to meet with the course faculty at least once while preparing the presentation.


The didactic component of this course, including this learning activity, is an intensive format (5 consecutive days, 9A-5P). Students learn the content and prepare the presentation during days 1-4 and present to the class on day 5. Therefore, content on theory-guided practice is covered earlier than ideal from a pedagogical perspective.


In this first course of the DNP program, students look at nursing practice from the system-level and see the value of discipline-specific theory-guided practice. For many years, this activity was an individual paper. Students like this team format and being able to select the practice problem and the theory to guide the plan. Students are exposed to a number of discipline-specific theories in their own team and hearing the other teams’ presentations.