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Keywords

 

Authors

  1. Holtzclaw, Barbara J. PhD, RN, FAAN
  2. Hanneman, Sandra K. PhD, RN, FAAN

Abstract

The complexity of critical care settings and diversity among vulnerable patient populations often make clinical research study outcomes difficult to evaluate. When interventions are tested, outcomes or improvements in condition often can be questioned on the basis of variations in the patient's constitutional, genetic, or disease state. Study of mechanisms underlying physiologic problems in the seriously ill also are complicated by effects of drugs, preexisting cellular damage, and behavioral influences. Animal models are used increasingly in nursing science to study clinical problems and care approaches when there is need to ensure experimental control and provide consistency across subjects. The competent clinical investigator who decides to choose this option is advised to seek training in animal care, work with skilled colleagues in the basic sciences, and use excellent consultants. Several considerations arise when choosing a non-human alternative for biobehavioral research. First, there must be a compelling reason to choose this model, not simply for convenience or novelty. Second, the investigation should be humane, well planned, and well supported. Animal studies are not necessarily more economical than those involving humans, and they require serious ethical and scientific consideration to justify their use. When these conditions are met, the use of non-human models often can clarify a biobehavioral mechanism or biophysical response that will contribute significantly to nursing science.