Evidence-Based Practice: Asking the Right Questions

A detective circles the body of a slain business man watching the pathologist work. She considers the angle of the body and the trajectory of the bullet based on the wound. Work completed, the pathologist prepares to leave and the detective asks about the time of death. The pathologist responds, “The real question is how did he die? That gunshot wound was not fatal.”

I love a good mystery and often watch or read a detective story as a way to relax after a long day. Nursing can also be detective work as we sift through assessment data and make a judgment about actions to take. If we don’t ask ourselves the right questions, however, we are unlikely to come to the right conclusions.

In a prior post we talked about encouraging evidence based nursing practice in corrections. In order to find good evidence to use in practice, we have to ask the right question at the start. A popular method for developing a good question for locating the right evidence is called PICOT. Each letter provides a component of the question. Strung together, these 5 elements create an effective question to begin the search.

Suppose you are seeing more3 heel pressure ulcers in your infirmary due to a recent increase in paralyzed and elderly patients. Let’s try using the PICOT method to create a research question on this topic. In this case we’ll look into information comparing 2 different methods for preventing heel pressure ulcers. Below is a table showing the PICOT components for this search.

Element Characteristics Search Components
P Patient population or disease Heel Pressure Ulcers
I Intervention or issue of interest Heel Protectors
C Comparison intervention or issue of interest Turning
O Outcome Prevention
T Timeframe (optional) NONE

With these elements identified, the research question would be – Are heel protectors as effective as turning to prevent heel pressure ulcers? Armed with this question, we can begin to search the literature for an answer. In an upcoming post we’ll seek out an answer to this query.

Read more about Evidence-Based Nursing Practice in Chapter 18 from Essentials of Correctional Nursing. Order your copy directly from the publisher. Use promotional code AF1209 for $15 off and free shipping. http://www.springerpub.com/product/9780826109514#.UDqoiNZlQf4

Photo Credit: © kbuntu – Fotolia.com

One thought on “Evidence-Based Practice: Asking the Right Questions

  1. Pingback: Evidence-Based Practice: Where to Look | Essentials of Correctional Nursing

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