Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Jessica Dunne 

RE: Discussion – Week 5


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NURS 6052: Essentials of Evidence-Based Practice


            Because evidence-based practice (EBP) stems from scientific research, it is imperative that nurses not only be able to read and interpret the results of research studies; they must also have a sound understanding of the various methodologies utilized to gather, analyze, and interpret the data used within those studies. The design of the study, the number of participants, the data collection methods, all help to determine the relevancy of the research for nursing practice. For example, a large-scale, randomized control trial would more accurately measure the impact of hand-washing on infection control. But, a descriptive qualitative analysis would likely be a more effective research design to determine motivators or deterrents of hand-washing behavior. Polit and Beck (2017) maintain that quantitative nursing research studies primarily aim to establish causality. Philosophically speaking, causality is highly complex because most phenomena cannot be contributed to a single causative factor; rather, they are attributable to multiple, sometimes convoluting variables. Correlation while often compelling, does not equal causation, and a sound research design will be able to distinguish the difference (Polit & Beck, 2017).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

            Rowe, Sperlich, Cameron, and Seng (2014) maintain that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder which develops after experiencing a psychologically traumatic event.

It is characterized by intrusive reminders of the event such as nightmares and flashbacks, avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, persistent negative cognitions and numbing of responses, and symptoms of anxiety, including hyper-vigilance, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and sleep disturbances. PTSD is associated with substantial distress and impairment in functioning. (Rowe, Sperlich, Cameron, and Seng para. 8, 2014)

Epidemiological evidence indicates that women are twice as likely to suffer from PTSD than men (Rowe, Sperlich, Cameron, and Seng, 2014). McGovern et al. (2015) assert that PTSD is more likely to affect individuals with co-occurring substance use disorder. Co-morbidity rates are significantly increased when patients suffer from both PTSD and substance use disorder (McGovern et al., 2015).

Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Design

A randomized control trial (RTC) is an experimental design in which subjects are randomized into distinct groups with the aim of isolating variables to make a comparative analysis and establish the efficacy of each variable. Controlled experiments are considered the gold standard for establishing cause and effect (Polit & Beck, 2017). I selected a single-blind RCT which analyzed treatment modalities for patients with PTSD and co-occurring substance use disorder. The study isolated and analyzed three treatment variables; standard care, integrated cognitive behavioral therapy plus standard care, and individual addiction counseling plus standard care. The results of this RCT determined that cognitive behavioral therapy was most effective for treating symptoms of PTSD. However, cognitive behavioral therapy and individual counseling were similarly effective for treating substance abuse disorder. Both cognitive behavioral therapy and individual counseling combined with standard care were superior to standardized care alone in treating PTSD symptoms and substance abuse (McGovern et al., 2015).

            I believe that the randomized control design was appropriate for this research because the goal was to establish cause and effect of various treatment modalities for PTSD with co-occurring substance abuse. RTCs are well suited to isolate the effects of distinct components of complex interventions, and to measure the effectiveness of the interventions against one another (Polit & Beck, 2017). Moreover, the randomization of participants helped to mitigate variations of genetic, behavioral, and environmental differences amongst the participants. Blinding is a method used to prevent biases which occur from people being aware that they are being observed. To ensure optimal results, the designers of this study did not tell the group of patients receiving the intervention they were being studied, however, the participants administering the interventions were aware of the study. If only one group is unaware of the study, it is referred to as being a single-blind study, as opposed to a double-blind study in which both the group administering the intervention and the group receiving it are unaware of the research (Polit & Beck, 2017). One drawback to this design can be that there is no significant difference between the interventions. This research found no statistical difference between treatment interventions for substance abuse, but did conclude that one intervention was superior for PTSD. Therefore I think the design was well suited and yielded evidentiary treatment recommendations.

Analysis of a Quasi-Experimental Design

            The quasi-experimental design measures an intervention, but lacks randomization, and sometimes even lack a control group. However, its defining characteristic of is the lack of randomization (Polit & Beck, 2017). I examined a quasi-experimental study which aimed to test the effectiveness of a trauma-specific, psycho-educational intervention for pregnant women with a history of abuse-related PTSD on six-intrapartum and post-partum psychological outcomes. This quasi-experimental research employed the nonequivalent control group, pre-test post-test design. Women voluntarily entered the study by responding to an advertisement or accepting a referral from their medical provider. The research concluded that the educational intervention provided clinical benefits including improved labor experience, less post-partum PTSD and post-partum depression, and decreased bonding impairment (Rowe, Sperlich, Cameron, & Seng, 2014).

I believe that this was an appropriate research design for this study because it facilitated the recruitment and retention of participants from a vulnerable group. The quasi-experimental design was strong in this case because it compared similar patient groups before and after the intervention concluding that differences in outcomes were directly attributable to the intervention. However, this design is vulnerable to selection bias, in that the groups were not comparable before the study (Polit & Beck, 2017). However, because the participants in this study suffered from abuse-related PTSD, this limitation was not applicable to this research.  

Consequences of Inappropriate Research Designs

            It is imperative to select an appropriate research design because the design of the study has a significant impact on the quality of the results yielded from the research. When the research aims to establish causal relationships, the design is more important than any other methodological factor. Various research designs have distinct strengths and weaknesses, and it is up to the researchers to determine which one is most appropriate for their research question. For therapy questions, experimental designs are the gold standard, while the RCT design is best suited to establish cause and effect. If a researcher chooses a RCT design to answer a therapy question, the quality of the results will suffer, and the question may not even be answered (Polit & Beck, 2017). The goal of the research is to answer questions, but, selecting an inappropriate research design could lead to more questions than answers.


McGovern, M. P., Lambert-Harris, C., Xie, H., Meier, A., Mcleman, B., & Saunders, E. (2015). A randomized controlled trial of treatments for co-occurring substance use disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. Addiction,110(7), 1194-1204. doi:10.1111/add.12943

Polit, D. F., & Beck, C. T. (2017). Nursing research generating and assessing evidence for nursing practice. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.

Rowe, H., Sperlich, M., Cameron, H., & Seng, J. (2014). A quasi‐experimental outcomes analysis of a psychoeducation intervention for pregnant women with abuse‐related posttraumatic stress. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing,43(3), 282-293. doi:10.1111/1552-6909.12312


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