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Investigating Knowledge, Attitude, and Beliefs Regarding Placebo Interventions in Clinical Practice: A Comparative Study of Nursing and Medical University Students

Authors Bayoumy HMM, Almuwallad GE, Eissa AO

Received 16 February 2020

Accepted for publication 16 July 2020

Published 9 September 2020 Volume 2020:11 Pages 619—635


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Md Anwarul Azim Majumder

Hala Mohamed Mohamed Bayoumy, 1– 3 Ghada Eissa Almuwallad, 4 Ashwag Othman Eissa 5

1Department of Nursing, Cairo University, Gizah, Egypt; 2Department of Nursing, King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz University for Health Sciences, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; 3King Abdullah International Medical Research Center; King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz University for Health Sciences, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; 4Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; 5Medical-Surgical Intensive Care Unit, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Correspondence: Hala Mohamed Mohamed Bayoumy P.O.Box. 9515, Jeddah 21423, Saudi Arabia
Tel +966 565609919

Background: Placebo interventions are commonly used in medical practice for alleviating symptoms of illnesses. Placebo is considered a pseudo-medication and its use is debatable ethically, professionally, and legally. Despite that there is also a lack of evidence on understanding of placebo interventions among health profession students. Further, no previous studies have been conducted to investigate whether future nurses and physicians differ in their knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs regarding placebo intervention.
Materials and Methods: A comparative cross-sectional study was carried out for exploring knowledge, attitude, and beliefs about placebo interventions among a convenient sample of 187 medical and nursing students at King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences. Data were collected using a sociodemographic data sheet and a 32-item placebo knowledge, beliefs, and attitude scale, which was developed from the evidence-based literature. Validity and reliability were ensured through utilizing a panel of experts and internal consistency analysis.
Results: Overall mean participants’ knowledge score was 7.68± 2.07 (out of 15). Nursing students showed significantly higher knowledge than medical students (P=0.028). More nursing than medical students believed in the effectiveness of placebo (P˂0.001). Medical students had a stronger belief that the placebo effect is mental, while nursing students reported that it is both mental and physiologic (P˂0.006). Concerning placebo attitude, medical students significantly pointed out that it should generally be prohibited and should not be permitted unless research supports its use (P˂0.001). Both groups agreed that impure placebo intervention involves deception.
Conclusion: Participants’ overall placebo knowledge was low. Inconsistencies in attitude and beliefs were shown among students. Current study findings offered a unique opportunity to better study misunderstandings for placebo, which might open the gate for misuse and place patients at risk of deception. Additionally, study findings were imperative as a relevant evidence-based recommendation for nursing and medical educators could be achieved.

Keywords: placebo, knowledge, attitude, beliefs

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