Postoperative pain management experiences among school-aged children: a qualitative study

J Clin Nurs. 2013 Apr;22(7-8):958-68. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12052. Epub 2013 Jan 12.


Aims and objectives: To explore postoperative pain management experiences among school-aged children.

Background: Ineffective postoperative pain management among children has been commonly reported. School-aged children are able to evaluate how their pain is managed and what their preferred strategies are. Most studies in pain management have adopted quantitative methods and have overlooked children's pain management experiences.

Design: This is a qualitative study using face-to-face interviews.

Methods: Data were collected from 15 school-aged children admitted to a tertiary hospital in Singapore by in-depth interviews conducted between November 2010 and January 2011. Data were analysed by thematic analysis.

Results: Five themes were identified: children's self-directed actions to relieve their postoperative pain (e.g. using cognitive-behavioural methods of distraction and imagery, physical method of positioning, sleeping and drinking, seeking other people's help by informing parents and crying and using pain medications); children's perceptions of actions parents take for their postoperative pain relief (assessing pain, administering pain medications, using various cognitive-behavioural, physical methods and emotional support strategies, assisting in activities and alerting health professionals); children's perception of actions nurses take for their postoperative pain relief (administering medication, using cognitive-behavioural methods, emotional support strategies and helping with activities of daily living) and suggestions for parents (using distraction and presence) and nurses (administering medications, distraction and positioning) for their postoperative pain relief improvement.

Conclusions: This study contributed to the existing knowledge about children's postoperative pain management based on their own experiences. Children, their parents and nurses used various strategies, including pain medication and non-pharmacological methods, especially distraction, for children's postoperative pain relief.

Relevance to clinical practice: This study provides evidence for health care professionals to consider using more pain relief strategies when caring for children postoperatively and provide guidance for children to practice these strategies.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy
  • Pain, Postoperative / nursing*
  • Parents
  • Postoperative Care
  • Singapore


  • Analgesics