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Understanding PICOT Question – Evidence Based Nursing Practice

Nursing researchers must be conversant with the term ‘PICOT.’ The reason is that understanding the term enables them to formulate a research question that can guide nursing studies for generating useful evidence.

In nursing research, PICOT stands for population, intervention, comparison, outcome, and time. Essentially, population (P) stands for the specific patient group under study, intervention (I) stands for the actions whose effects will be monitored or measured during the study, comparison (C) stands for the events that would be observed in the absence of the intervention, the outcome (O) stands for the results that the nursing researcher expects to obtain after the study, and time (T) is the duration that the expected results are expected to appear. An example of a PICOT research question is that “In elderly patients who are at an increased risk of falling (P), what is effect of implementing a patient-training intervention program (I) on the rates of falls (O) as compare to the absence of the training program (C) within a period of 7 days (T). An effective understanding of PICOT helps nursing researchers to design studies that can be used to gather evidence for informing clinical practice.

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The point of a PICOT question is that it guides nursing research that is conducted with the aim of gathering evidence which can be applied in nursing practice to improve patients’ outcomes. Achieving the named goal is possible with a PICOT question because it usually contains important elements that every nursing research must entail. The elements include; the patient population, the nursing intervention, the expected outcome, patient care, and nursing practice. In the example above, the patient population to be used in the study is a group of elderly patients who are at an increased risk of falling. Notably, the nursing intervention to be used during the study is the implementation of a patient-training program. During the research, the nurses will expect to observe a change in the rates of falls following a successful implementation of the named intervention. The results of the study must be applied in patient care for their impacts to be monitored. Again, it is important to note that for the results to be allowed to influence nursing practice, they must be made part of an organization’s standard operating procedures or clinical practice guidelines.

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Nursing researchers must always remember that the effectiveness of every nursing research approach largely depends on the appropriate choice of a healthcare setting, the effective selection of time-frame, and the knowledge to compare the results of the intervention group with that of the patient population that is not receiving the intervention. All these factors are perfectly reflected in the PICOT question. For instance, in the example provided, the appropriate healthcare setting would be that which delivers care to a large percentage of elderly patients. The results would be compared to the outcomes of patients who are not receiving the training program. Finally, the best time for assessing whether the desired outcomes have been achieved is 7 days as stated in the PICOT question.

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