Why Do Healthcare Professionals Struggle with Pain Management So Much?

Pain management remains to be a challenging area for clinicians, nurses, and medical residents – and it doesn't matter how long they've been in the field.

When it comes to any health condition, it’s difficult for someone to really understand what it’s like unless they actually have it themselves. It seems like this is especially true for pain since it lacks biomarkers and physical presentation. Therefore, researchers from Shiraz University set out to find not only how much healthcare professionals know about pain management, but also their attitudes and practices.

In a study comprised of 213 healthcare professionals — 114 nurses and 99 medical residents – the researchers presented a questionnaire containing 46 questions. These questions fell into one of three categories: narcotic drugs, non-narcotic drugs, and non-drug-related.

The mean score was 43.13% questions correct — on average, nurses had 36.10% and medical residents had 51.23%. Medical specialty did not appear to play a role in scores for residents, the authors confirmed in Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine.

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“Unlike some earlier surveys, our study showed no difference in the pain management knowledge of nurses from oncology units compared to nurses from other clinical wards,” the team explained. “We learned that there was no relationship between years of nursing experience and the mean score of nurses’ correct answers.”

While only 9.3% of participants thought that they had sufficient education on pain management, confidence made no difference in correct answers. What may be even more troubling, besides the low percentages, is that the lowest scores involved narcotic drug questions (39.02%). Non-narcotic drug questions had the highest scores (57.32%).

Age did not play a statistical difference in nurses nor medical residents. A nurse’s amount of time in the field also did not have an impact on scores. However, their personal experience, not surprisingly, influenced a course of action for pain management.

Based on the demographics, the team hypothesized that physicians and nurses in smaller cities could have more conservative views when it comes to managing pain. But the study’s cohort did include “a much more sophisticated and academic group of clinicians compared to average clinicians.”

“The findings of this study support concern about inadequate knowledge, attitudes, and practice regarding chronic pain management,” the authors concluded. “We believe that further education and practical training will be needed for adequate pain management.”

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