Sensitivity, Specificity, and Receiver Operating Characteristics: A Primer for Neuroscience Nurses

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It is important for neuroscience nurses to have a solid understanding of the instruments they use in clinical practice. Specifically, when reviewing reports of research instruments, nurses should be knowledgeable of analytical terms when determining the applicability of instruments for use in clinical practice. The purpose of this article is to review 3 such analytical terms: sensitivity, specificity, and receiver operating characteristic curves. Examples of how these terms are used in the neuroscience literature highlight the relevance of these terms to neuroscience nursing practice. As the role of the nurse continues to expand, it is important not to simply accept all instruments as valid but to be able to critically evaluate their properties for applicability to nursing practice and evidence-based care of our patients.

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