Aim: To ascertain whether there is a relationship between the perceived importance of pain management tasks and the quality of an individual nurse's practice.
Background: The evidence to guide nurses' pain management practices is readily available. However, children's nurses' pain management practices often fall short of the ideal. The (lack of) priority attributed to pain management has been suggested as one reason for this. However, this supposition has not previously been explored.
Design: Participant observation.
Method: Data were collected about children's nurses' (n = 13) post-operative pain management practices on one children's surgical ward in the English Midlands. Nurses (n = 12) also completed a questionnaire to provide a measure of the importance attributed to pain management tasks.
Results: The questionnaire responses of individual participants (n = 12) were compared to the observational data. The perceived importance of a pain management task did not affect the likelihood of it being undertaken.
Conclusion: Several explanations for these results have been put forward. It is apparent that the hypothesis, put forward in other studies that increasing the priority attributed to pain management will improve pain management practices may be overly simplistic.
Relevance to clinical practice: The evidence to guide nurses' pain management practices is readily available. However, children's nurses' pain management practices seem to fall short of the ideal. Possible reasons for this need to be explored so that practice can be improved.