Background: The application of knowledge to the care of critically ill patients is a hallmark of professional nursing practice. However, the educational preparation of intensive care nurses varies from country to country, and there has been little research that has investigated knowledge levels of European critical care nurses.
Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the knowledge levels of European intensive care nurses.
Design: The study was an international cross-sectional survey, with data collected from 20 European countries.
Setting and participants: 318 European intensive care units participated, and data were collected from 1142 intensive care nurses.
Methods: Data were collected between May and December 2009 using a 100-item multiple choice online questionnaire to assess intensive care nursing knowledge. The questionnaire was available in 16 languages, and data were collected in 11 knowledge areas.
Results: A response rate of 60% was achieved; the majority of participants was female (77%). The largest groups of nurses had more than five years' experience and were under 30 years of age. The overall mean knowledge score was 66% (SD 12). The main factor that contributed to variance in scores was nurses' length of intensive care experience; in ten categories knowledge scores were progressively higher according to experience. If 50% is considered to be a pass mark, 90% of participants would have passed. However, in only six countries did all participants achieve a 'pass' score, and in five countries more than 10% of participants failed to meet this 'pass' criterion. The knowledge category which scored lowest was respiration and ventilation (mean score 56%, SD 15).
Conclusions: Although knowledge levels differed among countries, there were no major differences. However, the relatively low scores achieved in the respiration/ventilation category are a cause of concern, and suggest that this is an education area that should be prioritised. The results should be considered within the context of each country's healthcare and professional education systems, and strategies should be developed to improve knowledge in several key areas.
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