• acute care;
  • adolescents;
  • child;
  • Delphi study;
  • nursing;
  • research

Aims and objectives.  This paper describes a study that aimed to identify research priorities for the care of infants, children and adolescents at the sole tertiary referral hospital for children in Western Australia. The secondary aim was to stimulate nurses to explore clinical problems that would require further inquiry.

Background.  Planning for research is an essential stage of research development; involving clinicians in this exercise is likely to foster research partnerships that are pertinent to clinical practice. Nursing research priorities for the paediatric population have not previously been reported in Australia.

Design.  Delphi study.

Method.  Over 12 months in 2005–2006, a three-round questionnaire, using the Delphi technique, was sent to a randomly selected sample of registered nurses. This method was used to identify and prioritise nursing research topics relevant to the patient and the family. Content analysis was used to analyse Round I data and descriptive statistics for Round II and III data.

Results.  In Round I, 280 statements were identified and reduced to 37 research priorities. Analysis of data in subsequent rounds identified the top two priority research areas as (1) identification of strategies to reduce medication incidents (Mean = 6·47; SD 0·88) and (2) improvement in pain assessment and management (Mean = 6; SD 1·38). Additional comments indicated few nurses access the scientific literature or use research findings because of a lack of time or electronic access.

Conclusions.  Thirty-seven research priorities were identified. The identification of research priorities by nurses provided research direction for the health service and potentially other similar health institutions for children and adolescents in Australia and internationally.

Relevance to clinical practice.  The nurse participants showed concern about the safety of care and the well-being of children and their families. This study also enabled the identification of potential collaborative research and development of pain management improvement initiatives.