The experience of pain is one of the body’s natural defense mechanisms. However, pain can be debilitating for the patient and treating the experience of pain can be challenging for nurses.
Below is a list of proposed strategies that clinicians can rely upon to assist in effective pain management for their patients:
- A detailed history and physical - This is the initial step whereby the patient and the nurse can explore the history of the pain, the nature of the pain, and the history of already used treatments. They can also use a pain score. This also allows the nurse to have the chance to listen to and understand how the pain has impacted the patient’s life (Pain Management: Nursing Role & Core Competency).
- Any appropriate testing that can facilitate diagnosis - After gaining a subjective report, further objective data is often necessary. An X-ray or MRI might be ordered to fully understand the cause of the pain.
- Establishment of realistic and desired goals of further treatment - This would be a point where effective evaluation and treatment start to take a unique path. It is critical for the nurse clinician to understand what the patient is looking for in terms of successful treatment, regardless of the painful condition. In some situations, the diagnostic answers might be clear, as in headaches, but the impact on the patient’s life, quality of life, ability to perform activities of daily living must be identified, documented, and constantly revisited along the continuum of care (American Society for Pain Management Nursing, 2010).
- Formulation of a treatment plan - The patient and the clinician would then work together to develop a treatment plan that would include diagnostic testing and follow-up visits. The plan might require other interventions, if the patient develops tolerance.
- Referral to a pain specialist - If the nurse clinician can no longer provide effective therapy, referral to a pain specialist might be warranted.
These are only several strategies that nurses can use to assist in pain management. Often, effective treatment requires creativity and diligence on behalf of the care team. But, the overall, result is improved patient outcomes and quality of life.
About the author: Jennifer Ward, BSN, RN is a medical- surgical nurse also trained in Oncology and Long-Term Care. Jennifer is dedicated to evidence-based practice and shared governance.
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