Useful PICOT Questions for Nursing Research

PICOT format is required for creating clinical questions that are evidence-based in nursing research. Without a doubt, evidence-based research papers make up a majority part of the nursing assignments. Therefore, if you are looking to do a nursing research paper, you need to design your clinical question as per the PICOT format.

The PICOT question format is divided into four major elements. So, a good nursing research question should address all the elements of the PICOT. Here are the elements defined by PICOT when it comes to designing evidence-based practice nursing research questions:

P: Patient, Problem, Population

What to consider:

  • What are the most important characteristics?
  • Relevant demographic factors
  • The setting

I: Intervention

What to consider:

  • What is the main intervention, treatment, diagnostic test, procedure, or exposure?
  • Think of dosage, frequency, duration, and mode of delivery

C: Comparison

What to consider:

  • Inactive control intervention: Standard care, placebo, no treatment
  • Active control intervention: A different drug, dose, or therapy

O: Outcome

What to consider:

  • Be specific and make the outcome measurable
  • The outcome should be objective or subject

T: Timeframe, Type of Question, Type of Study (the T is an additional element that is not always present but regardless it helps in the determination of a perfect nursing research question)

These PICOT elements will greatly help you define the good clinical research question for your evidence-based nursing research paper. Nursing students are required to frame their nursing research papers based on the PICOT framework. If you need help with structuring your PICOT question for the nursing research paper, don’t hesitate to contact us now.

How to Form Nursing Research Questions with PICOT

Here is how to write PICOT elements and then form a focused question as per the PICOT framework:

Cancer care and Peer Support

You have read that peer support interventions help individuals and families affected by cancer across the care continuum from prevention through survivorship and end-of-life care. As a nurse, you wonder about the characteristics of peer support programs and how peer programs have been used to reduce disparities and barriers to care.

  • P: Individuals and families affected by cancer
  • I: Peer support programs
  • C: None
  • O: Reduce disparities and barriers to care
  • T: None

PICOT Question: For individuals and families affected by cancer, how have peer support programs been used to reduce disparities and their barriers to cancer care? What are the characteristics of peer support programs?

NOTE: Sometimes you may have several questions you want to address regarding your topic. as such, scoping reviews can allow for this type of flexibility.

Labor & Delivery

As a nurse in a labor and delivery unit, you notice that most women give birth in the lithotomy position at the encouragement of their doctors. But, you are sure you heard in nursing school that other positions are less likely to lead to deliveries with forceps or a vacuum… or did you? You want to find some literature to back up your claim.

  • P: Laboring women delivering in a hospital
  • I: Positions other than the lithotomy position
  • C: Lithotomy position
  • O: Decrease incidence of assisted deliveries
  • T: None

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

Medical Surgical

Shift change in your busy med-surgical unit can be frustrating for you and your coworkers. Report at the nursing station takes up to 30 minutes, by the end of which you are anxious to see your patients. You read something in a recent ANA newsletter about other hospitals switching to a bedside shift report, and you want to find out if the staff liked that style of shift better.

  • P: Staff med-surgical nurses
  • I: Implementation of bedside shift reports
  • C: Shift changes reports at the nurses’ station/standard practice
  • O: Greater satisfaction with care

PICOT Question: Among staff nurses on a medical-surgical unit, do implementing bedside shift reports lead to greater satisfaction with care when compared to traditional shift change reports at the nurse station?


You are a nurse working in an inpatient psychiatric unit and one of your patients with schizophrenia normally mumbles to himself, but will occasionally speak to others when residents play games together. Noticing this, you say to fellow nurse that maybe social skills group training sessions would bring out the patient’s conversational skills. Your fellow nurse shakes head and says that the patient is in and out of this hospital, and that he is a lost cause.

  • P: Inpatient chronic schizophrenia patients
  • I: Social skills group training sessions
  • C: Standard care
  • O: Increased conversational skills as evidenced by greater number of interactions with peers
  • T: None

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

Wound Care

A diabetic patient from a nursing home has recently been admitted with a stage III pressure ulcers on his heels. The unit nurses have called you in for a wound consult. You have to choose between standard moist wound therapy and using a wound vac.

  • P: elderly diabetic with stage III foot ulcers
  • I: negative pressure wound therapy
  • C: Standard moist wound therapy
  • O: Improved wound healing as measure by pressure ulcer grading system guidelines
  • T: None

PICOT Question: 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?


You work in a pediatrician’s office and give patients their routine vaccinations. The younger children are usually fearful of needles, and some of the staff use toys to distract the patients. You want to know if this technique actually has an effect on the children’s pain response.

  • P: Young children
  • I: Distraction techniques during immunization
  • C: No intervention
  • O: Lower pain scores rated by the Faces pain scale
  • T: None

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


You are a nurse in the big city hospital ICU unit and mechanically ventilated patients sometimes contract nosocomial pneumonia, which leads to costly complications. You want to establish if raising the head of the bed lowers the chances of the patient contracting pneumonia compared to letting the patient lie flat on their back.

  • P: mechanically ventilated ICU patients
  • I: Semi-fowlers position
  • C: Supine position
  • O: Lower incidence of nosocomial pneumonia
  • T: None

PICOT Question: 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

In the past few years, your hospital has installed antibacterial foam dispensers on all nursing units. However, you have heard nurses asking you whether the foam is just as effective as washing their hands with water and soap.

  • P: Hospital nurses
  • I: Using antibacterial foam
  • C: Hand wash with water and soap
  • O: Decreased bacteria count
  • T: None

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


The main concern for most of your patients coming out of anesthesia in your PACU is pain. You want to explore nursing interventions you can use on top of medication administration to decrease pain. One nurse mentions trying to make the PACU feel less clinical by playing soft music to relax patients

  • P: PACU patients
  • I: Soft music as an adjunct to standard care
  • C: Standard care alone
  • O: Lower reported pain scores
  • T: None

PICOT Question: 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?


On your pulmonary unit, many of your COPD patients receive injections of heparin to prevent pulmonary emboli, and patients find the bruises associated with heparin injections unsightly. However, you have heard nursing students shadowing you lately, therefore, you are particularly concerned with the injection technique. You want to explore if the duration of injection has any effect on the extent of bruising.

  • P: COPD patients receiving prophylactic heparin
  • I: Heparin injection duration of ten seconds
  • C: Heparin injection duration of ten seconds
  • O: Decreased circumference of bruising
  • T: None

PICOT Question: In COPD patients receiving prophylactic heparin, will a heparin injection duration of 30 seconds lead to a decreased circumference of bruising when compared to an injection duration of 10 seconds?


You are the nurse manager of the NICU unit and one concern parents of infants receiving tube feedings is being able to successfully breastfeed their child upon discharge. However, one of your staff nurses asks whether it would be helpful to give the infants cup feedings instead of tube feedings during their NICU stay.

  • 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
  • T: None

PICOT Question: 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?

Some PICOT Nursing Research Topics to Consider

  • Is home visitation a better way of dealing with teen pregnancy when compared to regular school visits in rural areas?
  • Is the use of intravenous fluid intervention a better remedy for infants under fatal conditions?
  • What is the best way of giving oxygen during the process of oxygenation for children between 2 and 3 months old?
  • What are the roles of a pre-surgery cardiac nurse in order to prevent depression amongst patients awaiting cardiac operation?
  • Are alarm sensors effective in preventing accidents in hospitals for patients over the age of 65 years?
  • Is an annual mammogram necessary for detecting breast cancer for women over the age of 40 years?
  • Are oral contraceptives effective in stopping pregnancy for women above 30 years?
  • Do first-time mothers give birth to premature babies more prone to postpartum depression when compared to second or third-time mothers with the same condition?
  • Is daily blood pressure monitoring helps in addressing the triggers of hypertension among males over 65 years?

If you need assistance with designing your clinical research question for your nursing research paper, reach out to us today!

July 26, 2022

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