Pediatric Nurses' Cognitive Representations of Children's Pain


      The aim of this mixed methods exploratory study was to describe pediatric nurses' cognitive representations (CRs) of the assessment and management of children's pain and to determine the relationships between their CRs and their choices about pain assessment and morphine administration. We recruited a convenience sample of 87 nurses caring for hospitalized children at 4 institutions. We measured the CRs with the Conceptual Content Cognitive Map (3CM) technique and pain assessment and morphine administration with smiling and grimacing child vignettes. We used content analyses for the 3CM data and fit logistic regression models to predict participants' analgesic choice for each vignette. Nearly all (91%) participants identified the child's behavior as an assessment approach; 48% indicated it as most important. Participants (92%) identified pharmacologic as a management approach; 47% indicated it as most important. Participants' CRs did not predict assessment or morphine administration choices. Significantly more participants chose the appropriate analgesic response for the grimacing child than they did for the smiling child. Nurses with more years of pediatric experience were less likely to select administration of the appropriate morphine dose. The 3CM method provided insights into nurses' thinking about pain that are indicative of gaps, which may be amenable to interventions.


      Findings are from an innovative, unique measure of nurses' knowledge and beliefs about the complex phenomenon of children's pain management. Extensive details about the thought processes of pediatric nurses regarding pain assessment and management surfaced through this analysis, which provide excellent information for direction of future research and practice innovations.

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