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Nursing: PICO

PICO: Formulating the Question

The clinical question needs to identify:

P = Problem or Patient or Population

Use words that could describe the patient or problem. What are the most important characteristics? Is there a primary problem, disease, or condition that is important? Sometimes sex, age, gender, or race are relevant.

I = Intervention

An intervention can be an action you are taking to change a situation or a medical event. What treatment or protocol is being considered for this patient?

C = Comparison

What is the main alternative to compare with the intervention? Are you trying to decide between two drugs, a drug and no medication or placebo, or between two diagnostic tests? There is not always a comparison.

O = Outcome

What do you want to accomplish (or avoid) for the patient?  What outcome is in the best interest of the patient?

PICO Worksheet

PICO Example

A middle-aged man who travels frequently for business is concerned about the risk of deep vein thrombosis. He has asked his health care provider if compression stockings are effective in reducing the risk of deep vein thrombosis (dvt).

P (patient/population) :  male, business travel, air travel
I (intervention)             :  compression stockings, compression garments
C (comparison)           : 
O (outcome)                :  dvt, venous thrombosis, venous thromboembolism

Database Search Strategy to Find Evidence

Identify the keywords and subject terms in the clinical question to search for information. From the example above, a CINAHL Complete search strategy may look like this:

air travel
(compression stockings or compression garments)
(dvt or venous thrombosis or venous thromboembolism)

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