Picot, Nursing Practice Problem and Medical Practice Problem, With Examples

The PICOT process is an important tool used in the healthcare sector to study both medical and nursing practice problems. It is used to develop clinical questions for the diagnosis of the condition of a patient. However, sometimes PICOT procedures used in the assessment of nursing practice problems tend to be irrelevant as a result of being only applicable in medical practice problems. Therefore, there is need to understand the difference between the two types of problems. This paper uses examples to describe the difference between medical nursing practice problem, and nursing practice problem. It also discusses the importance of ensuring that nurse practitioners base PICOT on nursing practice problems.

Difference between Nursing Practice and Medical Practice Problems

There is a clear difference between nursing practice and medical practice problems. Understanding this difference is crucial in nursing practice since it promotes the delivery of quality healthcare services to patients.

Nursing Practice Problem

A nursing practice problem is a healthcare problem that is identified during nursing assessments on the condition of a patient. It is the clinical judgment of a nurse about the response of a patient to potential or actual health problems that he or she is exposed to (Milner & Cosme, 2017; Peate & Wild, 2017). The assessment of a nursing practice problem begins with the evaluation of the care needs of the patient right from the time of entry into a healthcare environment, through the diagnosis of a physician, to the after-care needs (Peate & Wild, 2017). Understanding the problem requires a nurse to collect comprehensive data about the patient.

An example of a nursing practice problem is when a patient visits a healthcare facility with fever, headache, and other physical symptoms and signs. A triage nurse can identify such a problem as a nurse practice problem by way of carrying out relevant and appropriate nursing diagnosis. The undertaking helps the nurse to determine the kind of healthcare services that the patient is in need of. The diagnosis of a nursing practice problem is based on the physical, social, mental, and spiritual and other forms of human response of a patient to the supposed condition (Milner & Cosme, 2017). Therefore, nurses should be careful not to engage in care that is beyond their scope.

Medical Practice Problem

Unlike a nurse practice problem, a medical practice problem is one that emphasizes on the pathology of a patient. It specifically involves examining the biological and physical aspects of a condition (Milner & Cosme, 2017). A relevant example of a medical practice problem is when a given patient presents himself or herself to a healthcare facility with a serious health condition that requires tests and assessments to be understood. If the diagnostic tests of a physician show that the patient is suffering from a disease like diabetes, then the health problem can be identified as a medical practice problem.

The diagnosis of a medical practice problem is purely based on the patient’s physiological state or medical condition (Renton, McGuinness & Strachan, 2019). This is unlike in the case of a nursing practice problem which is diagnosed based on human responses to a health condition. It is also important to note that the assessment of a medical practice problem focuses on an illness itself. The physician uses his or her medical knowledge and experience to determine the possible cause of the health problem that is being dealt with. This process helps to ensure that the patient receives proper medical attention that can help to cure him or her.

Importance of Basing PICOT on Nursing Practice Problem

The success of nursing diagnosis depends on the quality of physiological and psychological responses of a patient about a health problem. In order for a nurse to get good responses required for better treatment outcomes, there is need to ask the patient relevant clinical questions (Milner & Cosme, 2017; Renton, McGuinness & Strachan, 2019). Such questions can be formulated using the PICOT (patient, intervention, comparison, outcome, and time) mnemonic.

As a nurse practitioner, I need to apply PICOT on nursing practice problems. This will help to ensure that I get diverse information about a patient and his or her condition (Meyer, 2017). First of all, I will try to understand the patient I am dealing with in terms of sex, age, and other population aspects. Next, I will explore the main interventions required for the supposed condition. From there, I will compare the chosen intervention with other alternatives. I will then try to figure out the clinical outcome of the intervention preferred. Lastly, I will consider the time it will take for the outcome to be achieved. 


Meyer, M. N. (2017). Evidence-Based Practice: Success of Practice Change Depends on the Question. Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing: Foundations, Skills, and Roles. Springer Publishing Company. https://connect.springerpub.com/content/book/978-0-8261-2759-4/part/part02/chapter/ch06

Milner, K. A., & Cosme, S. (2017). The PICO Game: An Innovative Strategy for Teaching Step 1 in Evidence‐Based Practice. Worldviews on Evidence‐Based Nursing, 14 (6), 514-516. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319068088_The_PICO_Game_An_Innovative_Strategy_for_Teaching_Step_1_in_Evidence-Based_Practice_The_PICO_Game

Peate, I. & Wild, K. (2017) (eds). Nursing Practice: Knowledge and Care. John Wiley & Sons. https://www.wiley.com/en-us/Nursing+Practice%3A+Knowledge+and+Care%2C+2nd+Edition-p-9781119237471

Renton, S., McGuinness, C. A. & Strachan, E. (2019) (eds). Clinical Nursing Practices. Elsevier. https://www.elsevier.com/books/clinical-nursing-practices/renton/978-0-7020-7839-2

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