Aims and objectives To explore contact with and knowledge regarding chest drain management among nurses.Background Chest drains are commonly used in both adult and paediatric settings, for example, for cardiothoracic patients or postspinal surgery, where they are inserted intra-operatively to drain excess fluid. Despite a large number of children requiring chest drain insertion annually, current literature suggests that many nurses have reduced contact with chest drains and a knowledge deficit regarding their management. Furthermore, the literature is limited in relation to chest drain management in the paediatric patient. Mismanagement of chest drains can have devastating consequences for patients.Design A standardised descriptive survey approach was employed.Methods The sample consisted of 121 critical care and ward nurses from a large urban paediatric hospital, who cared for chest drains on a regular basis. Data were collected using a 37-item questionnaire, adapted from a study in the adult setting. Statistical analysis was performed using spss V15.Results The findings demonstrate that increased exposure to caring for children with chest drains is synonymous with a greater perception of knowledge levels in this area of practice. While critical care nurses looked after children with chest drains more frequently than ward nurses, there was no difference in the knowledge assessment section of the questionnaire. This research identified where knowledge deficits exist.Conclusions This study identified the key areas where overall uncertainties existed leading to a decreased knowledge perception. Nurses are engaging with methods of knowledge acquisition; however, those who have less contact with chest drains require regular updates.Relevance to clinical practice Addressing misconceptions about chest drain management is imperative. Providing up to date guidelines in clinical areas will improve chest drain management. Strategic educational initiatives are in place to ensure identified knowledge deficits are addressed and a complete revision of chest drain guidelines has been undertaken.