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Analgesia, Intensive care units, Pediatric, Pediatric critical care nursing, Sedation



  1. Hagstrom, Sandra PhD, RN, APRN, CPNP
  2. Hall, Jaclyn MN, RN
  3. Sakhitab-Kerestes, Alyssa MN, RN
  4. Tracy, Mary Fran PhD, RN, APRN, CNS, FCNS, FAAN


Background: Pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) nurses may consider additional factors beyond validated tools when managing pain and sedation of children. However, these other factors and related beliefs, practices, and decision-making for analgesia and sedation have not been well described.


Objectives: This study describes nurses' beliefs, practices, and decision-making related to sedation and analgesia for mechanically ventilated children on a PICU and a pediatric cardiovascular ICU at a tertiary academic children's medical center in the United States.


Methods: A 35-item web-based survey tool was developed to more fully identify nurses' pain, sedation, comfort, and analgesia beliefs, decisions, planning, and procedures for children who were mechanically ventilated in the ICU. It was distributed to 102 nurses in the PICU, pediatric cardiovascular ICU, and pediatric critical care float pool.


Results: Twenty-six nurses (25%) responded; a majority worked the night shift and had 5 years or less of ICU experience. While participants believed intubated pediatric patients required moderate to deep sedation, approximately only half reported patients were adequately sedated. They reported that they were more likely to manage pain and sedation using specific behaviors and changes in vital signs than scores on a standardized scale. Nurses also reported routinely incorporating nonpharmacologic comfort measures. Premedication was more common for invasive procedures than for routine nursing care.


Discussion: Pediatric ICU nurses in this study considered factors beyond standardized scales when evaluating and managing pain and sedation of ventilated children. Nurses prioritized children's specific behaviors, vital signs, and their own nursing judgment above standardized scales. Research is needed to describe nurses' practices beyond this small study and to define and validate additional assessment parameters to incorporate into decision-making to improve management and care outcomes.