BACKGROUND: Although nurses are accountable for pain management, it cannot be assumed that they are well informed about pain. Nurses' knowledge base underlies their pain management; therefore, it is important to measure their knowledge. OBJECTIVE: To measure pediatric critical care nurses' knowledge of pain management. METHOD: A descriptive, exploratory study was done. After a pilot study, an investigator-developed Pain Management Knowledge Test was distributed to 50 pediatric ICU nurses. Test responses were collected anonymously and coded by number. Item analysis was done, and descriptive statistics were calculated. Modified content analysis was used on requests for pain-related information. RESULTS: The test return rate was 38%. The overall mean score was 63%. Mean scores within test subsections varied from 50% to 92%. Other mean scores were 85% on a nine-item scale of drug-action items and 92% on a two-item scale of intervention items. However, no nurse recognized that cognitive-behavioral techniques can inhibit transmission of pain impulses; only 32% indicated that meperidine converts to a toxic metabolite, only 47% recognized nalbuphine as a drug that may cause signs and symptoms of withdrawal if given to a patient who has been receiving an opioid; and only 63% indicated that when a child states that the child has pain, pain exists. Thirteen nurses requested pain-related information, and all requests focused on analgesic medications. CONCLUSIONS: Testing nurses' knowledge of pain indicated gaps that can be addressed through educational interventions. Research is needed in which the test developed for this study is used as both pretest and posttest in an intervention study with pediatric critical care nurses or is modified for use with nurses in other clinical areas.

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