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Neonatal Nurses' Perceptions of Pain Assessment and Management in NICUs: A National Survey

Cong, Xiaomei PhD, RN; Delaney, Colleen PhD, RN, AHN-BC; Vazquez, Victoria MS, RN

Section Editor(s): Dowling, Donna

doi: 10.1097/ANC.0b013e31829d62e8
Original Research

PURPOSE: The purpose of this survey was to investigate neonatal nurses' perceptions of knowledge and practice in pain assessment and management.

METHODS: A convenience sample consisted of 237 neonatal nurses with a membership in National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) and neonatal nurses in Connecticut who were not NANN members. A researcher-developed questionnaire, including 36 questions with Likert scale and 2 open-ended questions, was used.

RESULTS: The nurses were knowledgeable, and about 50% felt that they received adequate training and continuing education on pain. Participants reported the use of pain assessment tools (81%) and felt confident in uses of pharmacologic (83%) and nonpharmacologic interventions (79%). More than half felt that the pain tool used in their unit was appropriate for neonates (65%) and was an accurate measure (60%). Fewer than half reported that pain was well managed (44%) and that their pain protocols were research evidence based (43%).

CONCLUSIONS: Nurses' perceptions of well-managed pain were significantly correlated with training, use of appropriate and accurate pain tools, and clear and research-based protocols. Barriers to effective pain management emerged as resistance to change, lack of knowledge, perceived fear of side effects of pain medication and incorrect interpretation of pain signals, lack of time, and lack of trust in the pain assessment tools. Gaps exist in knowledge, evidence, and practice in neonatal assessment and management.

University of Connecticut School of Nursing, Storrs.

Correspondence: Xiaomei Cong, PhD, RN, University of Connecticut School of Nursing, 231 Glenbrook Rd, U-4026, Storrs, CT 06269 (

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2013 by The National Association of Neonatal Nurses