Neonatal Nurse and Midwife Competence Regarding Pain Management in Neonates: A Systematic Review

Onanong Mala, Elizabeth M. Forster, Victoria J. Kain, Sheila Gephart, Katherine Newnam

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Neonates in need of intensive care are often subjected to numerous painful procedures. Despite the growing scientific research, hospitalized neonates continue to experience unrelieved pain. Enhancing the competence of neonatal intensive care nurses is an integral component of effective pain management. Purpose: The purpose of this article is to identify and synthesize the existing evidence on nurses' and midwives' competence regarding neonatal pain management internationally. Methods/Search Strategy: The review was guided by Whittemore and Knafl's 5-stage framework, with 8 databases searched in June 2020 including PubMed, CINAHL Complete (via EBSCOhost), MEDLINE (via EBSCOhost), PsycINFO (via Ovid), EMBASE, Scopus, Cochrane Library, and Google Scholar. Reference lists of selected articles were also hand-searched. Studies were reviewed independently for methodology and inclusion and exclusion criteria. The initial search yielded 3037 articles; 19 met the inclusion criteria and were included for analysis: qualitative (n = 5) and quantitative (n = 14). Findings/Results: Nurses' and midwives' competence regarding neonatal pain management in the neonatal intensive care unit is discussed in relation to knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions of competence by most studies. The barriers to effective neonatal pain management were found to relate to nurses' and midwives' factors, underutilized pain assessment tools, and organizational factors. Potential facilitators to effective neonatal pain management included clear evidence-based guidelines/protocols, adequate training, and the use of appropriate and accurate pain assessment tools. Parent involvement and a team approach to neonatal pain management were also identified. Implications for Practice and Research: These findings suggest that further research is necessary to address the barriers and promote facilitators to improve neonatal pain management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAdvances in Neonatal Care
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • competence
  • intensive care
  • midwife
  • neonatal
  • nurse
  • pain management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Neonatal Nurse and Midwife Competence Regarding Pain Management in Neonates: A Systematic Review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this