An exploration of an expanded nursing role in paediatric pre-operative assessment
This thesis explores the appropriateness of suitably trained children's nurses undertaking the pre-operative assessment of children prior to day case and minor surgery. The central focus of the study is a 60 subject hypothesis refining randomised controlled trial (RCT), comparing the pre-operative assessment of children carried out by suitably trained nurses with the assessment carried out by senior house officers (SHO's). Findings demonstrate significantly greater accuracy by nurses in the detection of abnormalities in children's history, when compared with the SHO's. No significant difference is demonstrated between the performance of nurses and SHO's in detecting abnormalities within the physical examination, or in the correct identification of children who have no detectable abnormalities. However, these findings of 'no significant difference' must be substantiated within a larger equivalence trial before assurances can be given that paediatric pre-operative assessment might safely be transferred from SHO's to nurses. Supplementary data explores the perspectives of parents and practitioners with regard to children's nurses undertaking a pre-operative assessment role. The views of parents, gathered via questionnaires, are supportive of the initiative. The views of nurses and SHO's involved in the RCT are similarly supportive, although the conduct of in-depth interviews with the nurses also reveals insights into their perceived vulnerability when carrying out such expanded roles. The views of anaesthetists are less positive, and convey a reluctance to accept nurses carrying out the pre-operative assessment of children. Finally, a national survey explores the views of nurses and SHO's involved in paediatric pre-operative assessment, revealing that nurses attribute significantly greater importance and enjoyment to the pre-operative assessment role when compared with SHO's. This factor may in part explain the greater accuracy demonstrated by nurses in the RCT, but such speculation must be substantiated by further enquiry. This study contributes to the nursing literature in offering what is thought to be the first systematic UK exploration of the role of the paediatric nurse within pre-operative assessment. It is also the first study, as far as the author is aware, to demonstrate significantly greater accuracy in history taking by nurses when compared with doctors, in a paediatric specific UK study. It therefore makes a meaningful contribution to both the paediatric and expanded role evidence bases. It also offers systematically informed hypothesis generation to underpin the ongoing exploration of an expanded nursing role within paediatric pre-operative assessment.