Competence 1: identifying why information is needed

“Why do you need this information?”

This is where you have an opportunity to reflect upon a gap in your knowledge. You may be working within an area of nursing that is new to you, and perhaps you have identified a patient with particular needs. You may want to find information that will help you to meet those needs, in order to improve the care that you give. This is the stage at which you can start to think about what questions to ask.

PICO is a tool that is sometimes helpful in structuring a well-designed question by identifying four key elements: 'Population', Intervention', 'Comparison', and 'Outcome'. View PICO in the animated representation below to help you remember this useful tool for creating a robust clinical question.

Case study

Pam is a nurse working on a children's surgical ward. She is concerned that the children are not receiving adequate post-operative pain relief. She believes their behaviour is affected by their level of pain. Pam feels that there should be a method for assessing the children’s pain, and would like to know more about the options.

How could she find out more about the subject?

Using the 'PICO' mnemonic as a guide, she can start to build a question. Follow the interactive presenation below to see how Pam is able to structure her question.

Using this guide, Pam has identified that she needs to search for information about the 'assessment' of children's 'post-operative pain' in order to identify the 'best pain control'.

However, Pam's interest is not only in effective pain assessment, but specifically with 'behaviour associated with pain'. She is concerned with 'acute' pain specifically. View Pam's key question elements as a Venn diagram in the animation below. The diagram shows how the different PICO elements may be combined. The central triangle in which all three circles overlap shows the information needed by Pam.  When searching for information she would need to build her search up using terms from each of the elements.

Pam has been able to identify her information needs by taking the time to reflect on an issue that is of concern to her. Reflection is an important stage in learning. The School of Health Sciences at the University of Ulster has designed a resource tool, Reflection on Practice, to develop learners' reflective practice skills, more information on which can be found in the 'Useful Resources' section.

You may also choose to record any key actions that you want to implement in your daily practice, or any reflections related to your learning using the templates provided in the 'Taking action' section. You can type straight into the PDF documents which can then be saved onto your computer and uploaded to your e-Portfolio, as evidence of your learning.