As far back as the 1980s, research has shown that not only do children feel pain in connection with medical procedures, but also that they can reduce and manage pain through age-adapted information and distraction.

Despite this, children still experience pain and fear of pain in connection with hospital stays.
In order to improve pain management, it is important to first identify how widespread the pain in children in hospitals is. Therefore, researchers at Malmö University, in collaboration with researchers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Macedonia, have conducted a study based on the child's own perspective.

We saw that we have a similar problem in all countries even though we all have knowledge about pain management.

Vedrana Vejzovic

“Children's pain is a global issue and we wanted to investigate children's pain in connection with hospitalisation and nurses' attitudes to pain. A first step is this pilot study where we examined the children's self-reported pain and experiences of pain management during their hospital stays,” says Vedrana Vejzovic, senior lecturer at the Department of Health Sciences.

The study investigated the extent to which children experience pain and whether nurses in the different countries use special instruments to measure children's pain. The primary purpose was not to compare between the countries, but there was still a hypothesis that it differs between the countries and, in that case, Sweden uses more instruments and informs more. It turned out not to be true.

“We saw that we have a similar problem in all countries even though we all have knowledge about pain management. Thus, more than just knowledge of pain is needed to generate results in pain management. There are probably other factors that hinder optimal care,” says Ann-Cathrine Bramhagen, assistant professor at the Department of Care Science.

Coordinating a study between several countries posed a lot of challenges, but this pilot study has shown that it is possible to coordinate, conduct and publish a study together.

“We are very proud, and we have put a lot of effort into this. We have different conditions but the same goal — that fewer children suffering from pain in the hospital. Then we can work together to create measures,” says Vejzovic.

Now the idea is to conduct a larger study that can provide useful results. Prior to that, cooperation and the international network have been expanded with more countries: Slovenia and Serbia. There is also a common agreement for all countries in the network to participate and collect data.

The goal is to implement, within each country, both knowledge of pain assessment from the child's own perspective and better, more effective pain management in the operations, but also find out why they are not already doing so. This could be about hierarchical structures, attitudes or organisational barriers to doing what you know is best for the children.

Text: Hanna Svederborn

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