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Nurse characteristics and inferences about children’s pain

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Griffin, R. A.; Polit, D. F.; Byrne, M. W.

The purpose of this study was to describe pediatric nurses’ projected responses to children’s pain as described in vignettes of hospitalized children and to explore nurse characteristics that might influence those responses. A survey was mailed to a national random sample of 700 RNs, and 334 nurses responded. The survey included case reports of three hospitalized school-aged children experiencing pain. Nurses were asked to rate their perceptions of the children’s pain levels and to indicate how much analgesia they would recommend. Contrary to earlier studies, in response to the scenarios, nurses in this sample perceived high levels of pain, said they would administer doses of analgesia close to the maximum prescribed by physicians, and recommended an array of non-pharmacologic methods to treat pain. Variation in pain perceptions and decisions was not related to key personal and professional characteristics of the nurses, including their education level, race/ethnicity, age, years of clinical experience, and receipt of continuing education about pain. Findings from this large national study suggest that most nurses would make appropriate decisions relating to the treatment of children’s pain, perhaps reflecting changes in the emphasis on pain management.

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