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Research Rounds: Understanding P values
DaiWai M. Olson PhD, RN, CCRN
Bradley J. Kolls MD, PhD, MMCI

Nursing2015 Critical Care
November 2011 
Volume 6  Number 6
Pages 8 - 11
  PDF Version Available!

Las Vegas. It was hot. It was dry. My daughter, Natalie, had decided that getting married in Las Vegas was lucky, and she choose July 7, 2007 (7/7/07) as the luckiest day to get married. This unique idea was shared by just over 3,000 other couples.As we rode from our hotel to the chapel, Natalie informed me that after the wedding, she was going to celebrate by playing roulette. As any good father would, I cautioned against this, but she insisted that she had a system. In fact, she said she'd tested this system yesterday (without playing her money) and after four spins, betting only on red or black, she would already have quadrupled her money.Unfortunately, she was a newlywed with no money of her own. So she offered me an opportu nity. She'd play roulette with my money, and we'd split the winnings. She pleaded, "Daddy, with just one spin of the wheel, we could double our money."Yup, they always call you daddy when they want something...and when did my life savings become "our money"?Readers, would you take this bet? Let's assume that there are two options to every spin of the roulette wheel: The ball may land on red or it may land on black. Would you trust Natalie's system and bet your life savings on one spin of the wheel? As nur ses, we essentially gamble with our patients' health: We bet that a patient will do better if we administer certain medications. What's the level of evidence that we, as nurses, require before we reject the idea that our patient has just as good a chance at recovering even if we don't give them the medication?I made the decision that before I took my money to the table, I should design an experiment to test the accuracy of Natalie's system. The roulette wheel has two options (red or black)-a dichotomous response-the same as tossing a coin. I could test the hypothesis that the system was better than just taking a chance by testing its ability to correctly predict the outcome of a coin toss.In scientific terms, the null hypothesis is that Natalie's

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