Fever management: paediatric nurses’ knowledge, attitudes and influencing factors

Authors

  • Anne M. Walsh MHSc RN,

  • Helen E. Edwards PhD RN,

  • Mary D. Courtney PhD RN,

  • Jenny E. Wilson BN RN,

  • Sarah J. Monaghan BN RN


Anne Walsh,
School of Nursing,
Queensland University of Technology,
Victoria Park Road,
Kelvin Grove,
Queensland 4059,
Australia.
E-mail: am.walsh@qut.edu.au

Abstract

Aims.  This paper describes Australian paediatric nurses’ knowledge of and attitudes toward fever and its management and the predictors of their intentions to administer paracetamol to a febrile child.

Background.  Despite evidence-based support for the beneficial effects of fever over the past three decades, health professionals’ negative attitudes toward fever and their reliance on antipyretics to reduce it have persisted and continue to be reported in the literature.

Methods.  A self-report questionnaire was used. An instrument was developed, piloted by test–retest and revised prior to data collection. Fifty-one paediatric nurses working in medical wards of a metropolitan paediatric hospital in Australia participated.

Results.  Nurses’ mean knowledge score about the physiology of fever, general fever management and antipyretics was 62%, which was not as high as expected. Participants reported positive attitudes toward the benefits of fever, the necessity for its reduction in children with pre-existing cardiac or respiratory conditions and towards regular antipyretic administration masking the infective process. Negative attitudes included disbelief that temperature is often unrelated to illness severity. Conflicting attitudes toward febrile convulsions were highlighted by beliefs that antipyretic therapy prevents these and that antipyretics do not prevent initial febrile convulsions. Predictors of intentions to administer paracetamol were beliefs about the effectiveness of paracetamol and nurses’ beliefs about the expectations of others in relation to paracetamol administration. Nurses reported strong intentions to administer paracetamol to the next febrile child they cared for. Limitations of the study include the use of a nurse manager for recruitment and collecting the data at only one site.

Conclusions.  Fever management is an integral aspect of paediatric nursing. For its consistent rational management, nurses must have appropriate knowledge and positive attitudes. This highlights the need for continuing education in fever management.

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