Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing
December 2009, Volume 24 Number 6 , p E1 - E9
Nursing research encompasses a wide array of study areas that oftentimes follow specific groups of patients or patient types. The cohort study design is a useful method to study any group, especially to track outcomes or to evaluate exposure or risk factors. Several different cohort study designs can be applied to the general population or to specific subpopulations or groups, such as those with cardiovascular disease. Cohort designs provide a temporal view of groups and exposures that can uncover outcomes and exposures that may be difficult to separate out in smaller, traditional experiments. There are several types of cohort designs, each with their unique advantages. Cohort designs may be prospective or retrospective. Although most cohort designs are longitudinal, there are also cross-sectional types of studies that are useful. As with any type of research design, selection of the study participants and control groups must be made carefully. It is important for the variables to be clearly defined and measurable. The investigator must also be aware of potential biases and weaknesses associated with different cohort study designs and account for these problems when they arise. Reports from cohort studies should be presented clearly, addressing the potential confounding problems. This article explores the many types of cohort designs, with examples from cardiovascular disease research to demonstrate how nurses can use this design in their research.