POLST Quality and Research: Suggestions for Starting on the Right Track

  • Be as clear as possible about why you are doing this study. This means having a clear question or questions that you want to answer, and a fairly clear idea of what the results will look like when you collect them. This sounds obvious and simple, but it’s actually the hardest part. Too often people are doing research or quality work because it is expected. The best researchers are those who need the results and already have an idea of how they will use them.
  • Because it is difficult to envision results before you get them, the best practice is to pilot test your study, compile the results, and informally analyze them. You will be surprised at how much this process helps you identify questions that, while they make sense, yield useless or difficult to summarize data. It can be disastrous to recognize this after you’ve collected all your data.
  • Another approach is to get input from people who have experience doing research in the area that you are interested in. The National POLST Paradigm Office is a great resource that can connect you with researchers and experts who can help you design your project and use the results effectively.
  • Expect obstacles and don’t let them discourage you. Obstacles are inherent to research, and no project is ever perfect. While often frustrating they are always opportunities to learn and some actually turn out to be important results. For example, a trainee of mine had a study that he really wanted to do, but every time he presented his ideas he encountered vigorous objections. Instead of giving up, he decided to study why people objected so strongly to his proposed project and ended up with results that were not only publishable, but are helping him re-design his project in a way that is more likely to succeed.