Improving paediatric nurses' knowledge and attitudes in childhood fever management

Helen Edwards, Anne Walsh, Mary Courtney, Sarah Monaghan, Jenny Wilson, Jeanine Young
Journal of Advanced Nursing 2007, 57 (3): 257-69

AIM: This paper reports an evaluation of the effectiveness of a peer education programme in developing paediatric nurses' evidence-based knowledge and attitudes towards fever management and the sustainability of these changes.

BACKGROUND: In general, paediatric nurses' fever management knowledge seems to be mediocre. They believe fever to be harmful, causing febrile convulsions and brain damage. Antipyretics are administered to prevent febrile convulsions and alternate antipyretics are given when temperatures are not reduced.

METHOD: A quasi-experiment was conducted from August 2002 to March 2003. An experimental group of Registered Nurses received the peer education programme and peer support and education were promoted for those unable to attend the sessions. A control group continued its normal practices. Seventy-seven nurses were eligible to attend the programme; 74.0% attended at least one session, 52% two or more. Questionnaire data were collected 1 month before and 1 and 4 months after the peer education programme from 56.3% to 77.8% of eligible experimental and 40.9% to 51.6% of eligible control group nurses.

FINDINGS: Interaction effects between group and time were found in overall knowledge (P = 0.01), specifically knowledge of the physiology of fever (P = 0.001), and attitudes towards evidence-based fever management (P = 0.05). In addition, experimental group nurses demonstrated statistically significantly more knowledge of general fever management principles at 4 months after the intervention than control group nurses (P = 0.01), and compared with their own knowledge at baseline (P < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Educational programmes targeting practice change must be theoretically based and target knowledge, attitudes and barriers to change. The programme tested here, which incorporated peer education and support and facilitated group change, is adaptable to other practices, groups and settings.

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