Children's and parents' perceptions of postoperative pain management: a mixed methods study

J Clin Nurs. 2013 Nov;22(21-22):3095-108. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12152. Epub 2013 May 8.


Aims and objectives: To explore children's and parents' perceptions about the quality of postoperative pain management.

Background: Children continue to experience moderate to severe pain postoperatively. Unrelieved pain has short- and long-term undesirable consequences. Thus, it is important to ensure pain is managed effectively. Little research has explored children's and parents' perceptions of pain management.

Design: Exploratory study.

Methods: Children (n = 8) were interviewed about their perceptions of pain care using the draw-and-write technique or a semi-structured format and asked to rate the worst pain experienced postoperatively on a numerical scale. Parents (n = 10) were asked to complete the Information About Pain questionnaire. Data were collected in 2011.

Results: Most children experienced moderate to severe pain postoperatively. Children reported being asked about their pain, receiving pain medication and using nonpharmacological methods of pain relief. A lack of preoperative preparation was evident for some children. Most parents indicated they had received information on their child's pain management. Generally, participants were satisfied with care.

Conclusion: Participants appeared satisfied with the care provided despite experiencing moderate to severe pain. This may be attributable to beliefs that nurses would do everything they could to relieve pain and that some pain is to be expected postsurgery.

Relevance to clinical practice: Children are still experiencing moderate to severe pain postoperatively. Given the possible short- and long-term consequences of unrelieved pain, this is of concern. Knowledge translation models may support the use of evidence in practice, and setting a pain goal with parents and children may help improve care.

Keywords: children; paediatric pain; parents; postoperative pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy*
  • Pain, Postoperative / psychology
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Quality of Health Care


  • Analgesics