How to Become a Pain Management Nurse

Choosing a specialty as a nurse can be a daunting task. You want to find something that you’re passionate about, something that will give you a sense of fulfillment, but also something that will pay the bills. Pain Management Nursing is a specialty that could be the right option for you, especially if you are passionate about truly helping people, especially in managing chronic conditions that require a lot of attention. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, keep reading for an inclusive guide to becoming a Pain Management Nurse.

What is a Pain Management Nurse?

All around the United States, there are an estimated 50 million people that live with chronic pain. This means that every single day of their lives, they are experiencing some level of pain. The pain can make functioning in regular life a challenge. The pain can be from a number of ailments, with headaches and back pain being the primary culprits. Arthritis, old injuries, and even carpal tunnel syndrome all contribute to chronic pain experienced by patients. This is where Pain Management Nurses come in.

A nurse working in pain management can help with either chronic or acute conditions. This means that whether the pain comes on suddenly due to an injury or if it lingers day after day, a nurse can help the patient manage that pain as best as they can, through medication, physical therapy, or other means.

What are the Duties of Pain Management Nurses?

Because it is the nurse’s primary goal to help quell the pain the patient is feeling, there are a few steps that need to be taken in order to do that well:


First, a Pain Management Nurse (PMN) will need to do an initial evaluation and assessment of the patient. Like most physical exams, the nurse will examine the patient and ask about any present symptoms. It is important that the nurse be able to look over the patient’s medical history and be able to make inferences about how that history reacts with present complaints. Following that initial examination, diagnostic tests may be ordered by a physician, NP, or PA to identify the source of said symptoms.


Once the issue is identified – or in many cases, even if it is not – managing the patient’s pain is the top priority and most complex task. Of course, there are several pain medications available for severe cases, but Pain Management Nurses must be able to use their best judgment in administering them.


This is one duty of the PMN that is often overlooked but is incredibly important. Because many of the most powerful pain medications are habit-forming or addictive, it is crucial that the nurse educate the patient on proper dosage and potential side-effects or long-term effects. Many Pain Management Nurses teach patients about alternative pain management techniques that may help in their situation so that they do not become reliant on those medications. Therapeutic massage and exercises, acupuncture, even yoga are all alternative methods for helping patients manage their pain.

What Qualifications Do I Need?

To begin your career as a nurse, you will need to complete either an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). Upon earning your degree, you will then have to take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed Registered Nurse in the state you wish to practice in.

Whether you are a brand-new nurse, or you are already an RN and are looking to get into pain management, from here, you’ll need to get a certification from the American Society for Pain Management Nursing. In order to be able to take this exam, you will need two years of experience as an RN, which gives you plenty of time to learn the ropes of working in a healthcare facility and dealing with patients of every variety. Additionally, you’ll also need two thousand hours of pain management experience and thirty hours of continuing nursing education. Fifteen of those hours should relate to pain management. This sounds like a lot, but if you decide early on that you want to get into pain management, then you will be able to get a lot of those hours while working for your degree and during your first two years of experience.

What are My Job Options?

Deciding to work as a nurse in pain management is an excellent career choice because there are so many options for different locations to work in. Of course, you may work in a hospital, but if you prefer less chaotic settings, there are other opportunities for Pain Management Nurses. For example, rehabilitation facilities are an excellent place to help patients manage their pain. These facilities focus mainly on sports or other injuries as opposed to illness-related pain issues. Sports medicine facilities or working with university sports teams are other great options for the Pain Management Nurse. Other options where PMNs are needed are outpatient clinics, oncology departments, and private medical offices.

What Salary Can I Expect?

Pain management is a fairly lucrative field for nurses. Currently, the average salary for a PMN is around $100,000 per year, give or take a few thousand depending on your location. Other things to consider are the size of the facility, the client base, and your own certifications and experience.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a specialty as a nurse is a daunting task, but if you know what you’re passionate about and what you want out of your career, you might have an easier time of it. Being enthusiastic about helping people feel physically better and aiding them to have a normal life is a key indicator that becoming a Pain Management Nurse could be the right path for you. And with the position in high demand all over the country, not to mention the high salary, there’s no reason not to give it a go.

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Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads is a registered nurse and a nurse educator. She earned a BSN from Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing and an MS in nursing education from Northern Illinois University. Jenna earned a PhD in education with a concentration in nursing education from Capella University where she researched the moderation effects of emotional intelligence on the relationship of stress and GPA in military veteran nursing students.