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  • PICO: Patient/Population, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcomes 

    A clinical question needs to be directly relevant to the patient or problem at hand and phrased in such a way as to facilitate the search for an answer. PICO makes this process easier. It is a mnemonic for the important parts of a well-built clinical question. It also helps formulate the search strategy by identifying the key concepts that need to be in the article that can answer the question.

    Types of Questions

    Clinical questions typically fall into one of four main categories: 

    • Etiology: What causes the problem?
    • Diagnosis: Does the patient have this problem?
    • Therapy: What is the best treatment for this problem?
    • Prognosis: What will the outcome of the problem be?

    Nursing Practice Questions-In nursing, many other questions about the practice will arise, with some of the questions resulting from the nursing principle of working with rather than on a patient. These questions can be quantitative or qualitative.

    Here are a few examples:

    • What other validated instruments for measuring this condition or phenomenon (e.g., pain) exist, and how do they compare to the one we currently use?
    • Should a nurse deliver patient education on the patient's disease/condition at the beginning or the end of an appointment or consultation?
    • How do caregivers of patients with [x] cope with the burden of care, and how can nurses assess the caregiver burden and/or support the caregivers?


    The image of this PICO Chart is from the San Jose State University Library Research Guide: NURS 144 Clinical Nursing Applications

    The content on Types of Questions was adapted from the PennState University Libraries Nursing Libguide.