PURPOSE: To report on the modification and exploration of a 21-item Early Detection of Pediatric Sepsis Assessment Checklist aimed at improving nursing students' recognition of key factors that contribute to early detection of sepsis in pediatric patients through clinical simulation. DESIGN AND METHODS: One hundred and thirty-one undergraduate, pre-licensure nursing students were evaluated using the adapted 21-item Early Detection of Pediatric Sepsis Assessment Checklist in simulation using high-fidelity manikins. Categorical Principle Component Analysis was used to evaluate for factor structure, with items accounting for <0.20 of the variance were dropped from the loadings. RESULTS: Two factors emerged from the analysis: assessment and deterioration, accounting for 68% of the variance. Factor one, assessment, contained nine items (α = 0.77; λ = 3.36). Factor two, deterioration, contained seven items (α = 0.72; λ = 2.85). Five items did not load and were dropped from the factor structure, resulting in a 16-item checklist. CONCLUSIONS: Two factors emerged from the analysis which is key to improving the early detection of pediatric sepsis. Assessment, factor one, accounted for the nursing students' central skills of recognizing baseline vital signs and timely medication administration. Deterioration, factor two, contained items reflecting the recognition of changes from baseline that require action. Conceptually, these factors reflect the most central points in the early detection of signs in pediatric patients at risk for sepsis. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: This checklist forms a valuable tool to assess the knowledge of pre-licensure students and may possibly be extended as a tool to assess the clinical readiness and performance of new graduates through the safety and supervision allotted by simulation.