How to Write Nursing Picot Question Examples

Nursing Picot Questions Examples that nursing students can use as a guide when developing their own clinical research questions.

Whether in the final stages of an advanced nursing degree program or in a professional clinical context, RNs begin their research inquiries using an evidence-based practice framework derived from a well-constructed PICOT question.

Clinical research questions consist of several parts, including “patient,” “intervention,” “comparison,” “outcome,” and “time,” hence the acronym PICOT. The PICOT process begins with a case scenario and a question that is aimed to get an answer.

According to EBSCO Health’s whitepaper “7 Steps To The Perfect Pico Search,” written by Kathy A. Jensen, MHA, RN, “the question needs to identify the patient or population we intend to study, the intervention or treatment we plan to use, the comparison between one intervention and another (if applicable), and the outcome we anticipate.” Researchers will be in a better position to search the literature for evidence that supports their original PICO inquiry once they have created a well-structured question.

Developing a comprehensive PICOT question is critical to nursing manager competencies for RNs in the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs, particularly online DNP programs. Students working on their DNPs learn how to ask and answer questions using the PICOT format by analyzing real-world scenarios.

So Exactly What is PICOT?

PICO is a formula used to develop a researchable clinical question.

The purpose of a PICO question is to help break down a research question into smaller parts, making the evaluation of evidence more straightforward.

Element Questions to Identify Element
P: Population, patient, or problem Who exactly is the target population? (Consider age, sex, gender, and racial demographics.)

How serious is the illness or problem that you’re dealing with?

I: Intervention or indicator What are your plans for the patient? (drugs, tests, therapies, operations)

To what extent do the interventions you employ make a difference for your patient or population?

C: Comparison or control What additional types of interventions could be tried? To what other studies can we compare our findings?

Does your intervention need to be compared to anything?

O: Outcome When comparing the intervention with the control, what is the desired or effective outcome?

Remember: One thing to keep in mind is that not all questions will require a time range or a comparison. Quality of life and clinical health status should be the endpoints of care.

Steps for the PICOT Process

For researchers to come up with a PICOT question, they need to know why they are doing the study.The EBSCO Health whitepaper gives the following broad illustration: A case study is conducted to see if chewing gum after abdominal surgery helps prevent ileus (lack of intestinal movement).

Researchers consider the scenario and employ the PICOT search’s seven stages:

  1. Create a broad PICOT question that asks: Using EBSCO Health as a starting point for evidence, a research question can read: “Does postoperative gum chewing affects the ileus more often than non-chewing in individuals recuperating from abdominal surgery?”
  2. Find out the PICOT mnemonic’s keywords:

P—Patients who have recently undergone abdominal surgery

I—Chewing gum

C—Not chewing gum

O—Impacts post-operative ileus

  1. Organize the search: Researchers think about the best databases and other search engines to use in order to discover answers to the inquiry. In order to make the most of their search keywords, researchers use search techniques.
  2. Execute a search: Researchers initially conduct separate searches for each of the PICOT factors. Use “abdominal surgery” and “recovery and postoperative” as search terms, for instance, to learn more about patients who have recently undergone abdominal surgery and are now in the recovery phase.
  3. Filter the findings: You can refine your search by only returning results from relevant sources, such as scholarly journals and reports.
  4. Review the content: Go over the findings to see if they provide enough data to address the PICOT question.
  5. Verify the validity of the study’s findings. It is important to evaluate the research findings to see if they represent the strongest possible evidence.

The results of the research conducted once the PICOT question has been formulated are then utilized to decide what kind of study is warranted. Some types of studies that can be done are meta-analyses, systematic reviews, randomized controlled trials (RCTs), cohort studies, case-control studies, and case reports.

Many people find it difficult to get high-quality clinical research evidence, as Jensen noted in an EBSCO Health whitepaper. To paraphrase, “by using the PICO approach, the search process will be expedited, yielding the best available evidence to support clinical judgments and investigate alternate treatments and procedures.”

Forming Focused Question with PICOT: Case Study

Case: Patient Education

  • You’re a registered nurse caring for patients in an intensive care unit. Patients are admitted to your unit for treatment of a wide range of medical issues (renal, gastrointestinal, dermatologic, etc.).
  • Every chronic smoker who is admitted to the hospital gets a few minutes of short counseling from an RN and a leaflet with information on how to quit smoking on their own, but no other help.
  • Your coworkers express frustration because they feel like they’re wasting their time since they believe the patients will start smoking again after they’re released.
  • As a result, you’ve decided to find out whether or not this limited-contact intervention has any lasting effects.

P: Consider when choosing your Patient/Problem/Population

  • Which characteristics are the most important?
  • Important demographic factors
  • The setting

I: Consider for your Intervention

  • What is the most important treatment, procedure, diagnostic test, or exposure?
  • Consider dosing, timing, duration, and route of administration

C: Consider for your Comparison

  • Inactive control intervention: Placebo, standard care, no treatment
  • Active control intervention: A different drug, dose, or kind of therapy

O: Consider your Outcome

  • Be clear and make it measurable.
  • It could be something objective or something subjective.

PICOT: Putting It Together

Your full PICO question is:

“Among hospitalized chronic smokers, does a brief educational nursing intervention result in long-term smoking cessation [when compared with no intervention]?”

Cardiology Nursing PICOT Question Example

Scenario:

Your nurse manager is wondering if it would be a good idea to reach out to patients on the coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) waiting list with presurgical home visits and follow-up calls from a specialist cardiac nurse, as these patients often experience anxiety and depression while waiting for their surgery.

P: patients on CABG waiting lists
I: program consisting of presurgical home visits and follow-up calls from a specialist cardiac nurse
C: no intervention
O: decreased patient anxiety and depression
For patients on CABG waiting lists, does an intervention program consisting of presurgical home visits and follow-up calls from a specialist cardiac nurse lead to decreased patient anxiety and depression [when compared with no intervention]?

ICU Nursing PICOT Question Example

Scenario:

You’re an intensive care unit nurse in a major city hospital. Nosocomial pneumonia is a costly issue that can occur in mechanically ventilated patients. You’re curious about whether or not a patient’s risk of developing pneumonia is diminished if their head of the bed is elevated as opposed to if they were allowed to rest on their back.

P: mechanically ventilated ICU patients
I: semi-fowlers position
C: supine position
O: lower incidence of nosocomial pneumonia

In mechanically ventilated ICU patients, does positioning the patient in semi-fowlers result in a lower incidence of nosocomial pneumonia when compared to the supine position?

Infection Control Nursing PICOT Question Example

Scenario:

All of the nursing units at your hospital have had antibacterial foam dispensers installed in recent years. A number of nurses have asked you if using the foam is as effective as using water and soap to clean their hands.

P: hospital nurses
I: using antibacterial foam
C: hand washing with soap and water
O: decreased bacteria count

In hospital nurses, does antibacterial foam decrease bacteria count on hands as much as hand washing with soap and water?

Labor & Delivery Nursing PICOT Question Example

Scenario:

You’ve just started working as a nurse at a maternity ward. You’ve probably observed that most doctors recommend the lithotomy position for giving birth. But you know from nursing school that alternative postures have a lower risk of resulting in forceps or vacuum deliveries, right? Find some research to support your argument.

P: laboring women delivering in a hospital
I: positions other than the lithotomy position
C: lithotomy position
O: decreased incidence of assisted deliveries

In laboring women delivering in the hospital, do positions other than lithotomy position lead to a decreased incidence of assisted deliveries?

NICU Nursing PICOT Question Example

Scenario:

You are in charge of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as its nurse manager. Concerns about whether or not parents of children who have been tube-fed will be able to resume breastfeeding when their child is discharged are common. During the course of their time in the NICU, one of your nurses wonders if it would be beneficial to switch the babies over to cup feedings from tube feedings.

P: Infants in the NICU
I: cup feeding throughout the hospital stay
C: tube feedings throughout the hospital stay
O: greater reported success with breastfeeding post-discharge

In infants in the NICU, will cup feeding throughout the hospital stay leads to greater success with breastfeeding post-discharge when compared to tube feedings?

Oncology Nursing PICOT Question Example

Scenario:

You are a healthcare provider for people with advanced cancer, and you have been instructed to recommend pain diaries as a means of pain management for your patients. You’ve been wondering for some time now if keeping such a journal helps patients feel better able to manage their pain, or if it actually makes things worse.

P: patients with advanced cancer
I: keeping a pain journal
C: no intervention
O: lower reported pain scores

In patients with advanced cancer, does keeping a pain journal result in lower reported pain scores when compared to no intervention?

Pediatrics Nursing PICOT Question Example

Scenario:

You are a vaccine administrator in a pediatrician’s office. Some of the RNs utilize toys to distract the patients, especially the younger ones who are often afraid of needles. You’re curious as to whether or not the pain response of kids is altered by this method.

P: young children
I: distraction techniques during immunization
C: no intervention
O: lower pain scores rated by the Faces pain scale

In young children, do distraction techniques during immunization administration using toys result in lower pain scores when compared to no intervention?

Psychiatry Nursing PICOT Question Example

Scenario:

You’re a member of a psychiatric ward’s inpatient team. Joe, one of your chronically psychotic patients, is mostly silent, although he opens up during group games. As a result of this realization, you mention to a colleague that social skills group training sessions would help Joe’s conversational abilities flourish. She gives you the head shake and says, “Just don’t see it happening. Joe is a perpetual patient here; it’s hopeless to try and save him.”

P: Inpatient chronic schizophrenia patients
I: social skills group training sessions
C: standard care
O: increased conversational skills as evidenced by a greater number of interactions with peers

In inpatient chronic schizophrenia patients, do social skills group training sessions increase conversational skills when compared to standard care?

Wound Care Nursing PICOT Question Example

Scenario:

A diabetic patient with advanced pressure ulcers on his heels was recently admitted from a nursing home. The nurses on your floor have requested your presence for a wound consult. It’s either the traditional wet wound treatment or the wound vacuum.

P: elderly diabetic with stage III foot ulcers
I: negative pressure wound therapy
C: standard moist wound therapy
O: improved wound healing as measured by pressure ulcer grading system guidelines

In elderly diabetic patients with stage III foot ulcers, does negative pressure wound therapy lead to improved wound healing when compared to standard moist wound therapy?

PACU Nursing PICOT Question Example

Scenario:

Patients recovering from anesthesia in your PACU typically have pain as their first concern. You’re interested in learning about nurse treatments that can be used in conjunction with medication to alleviate discomfort. A coworker discusses playing soothing music in the PACU in an effort to make patients more at ease.

P: PACU patients
I: soft music as an adjunct to standard care
C: standard care alone
O: lower reported pain scores

In PACU patients, will playing soft music in the PACU as an adjunct to standard care result in lower reported pain scores when compared to standard care alone?

These are some examples of clinical questions that are based on the PICOT parameters of population, problem, patient, intervention, comparison, and outcome. Although these questions may not completely address all of the PICO or PICOT criteria, they do provide a solid framework for any study of nursing. If you’re having trouble coming up with a clinical research question or need help with a nursing assignment, don’t wait to get in touch with us.

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