Anyone living with pain knows how much it can affect your quality of life. Some people try to be their own doctor and will look for different ways to treat themselves. Others will look to medical professionals to help them deal with their pain. A nurse has to take a huge part in solving pain management.
Nurses play a vital role in the effective pain management process that is fundamental to the quality of care a patient receives. They tend to spend more time with a patient than the doctor and it is their role to monitor, assess, interpret, evaluate, and intervene on behalf of the person in pain. Most nurses choose their profession because they love what they do and want to help people. AAACEUs Online Continuing Education courses on pain management will help them stay up to date on the latest techniques and interventions and help them care for their patients in the most effective way
The Need to Control Pain
When people are in pain, especially chronic pain, they can suffer psychologically and become depressed and anxious. Unrelieved and continuous pain can also have adverse effects on the patient’s body that will affect their immune, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems. Not only is the patient and the family affected by poor pain management practices, the hospital facility responsible for the care of the patient, can suffer in terms of a bad reputation and even be at risk for legal action.
The Nurse’s Role
The nurse’s role in their patient’s overall health and well-being includes helping them manage their pain. This is often one of their most important and biggest responsibilities. They will usually have a detailed conversation with the patient and family members, examine past medical history, and perform diagnostic tests. It is the role of the nurse to properly administer any medications and to make sure patients understand how to take them safely. Part of the pain management process is to look for alternatives to narcotic pain medications because of the negative, and sometimes devastating, effects of addiction.
Alternatives to Opioids
“There seems to be renewed media interest and governmental scrutiny around the use — and abuse — of opioids, and rightly so”, say nurse experts in pain management. Not everyone who uses opioids becomes addicted to them, but there are still many concerns around their use, misuse, and side effects leading to an increased emphasis on finding alternative and safer ways to help patients deal with their pain. Some alternatives to relying on opioids focus on psychological methods like hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
The Patient’s Role in Pain Management
Everyone has different pain tolerance levels and different abilities to accurately explain their level of pain. The best way to assess pain levels is through self-reporting and to include the patient in the discussions about their pain. However, there are patients, such as those with dementia, who will not be able to effectively communicate or participation in the assessment process. It is in these cases that the role of the nurse becomes even more important as they need to rely on other ways to assess pain levels in their patients. Nurses will need to look for physiological and behavioral signs such as:
- Distorted or tense facial expressions
- Restlessness or apparent agitation
- Increased blood pressure, heart rate, or respiratory rate
- Unusual or odd positions
- Abnormal writhing, rocking, or stillness
- Sobbing or crying out
Consequences of Unrelieved Pain
Chronic or unrelieved pain can have a serious negative impact on a person’s life such as varying levels of anxiety, depression, relationship problems, and sometimes the inability to maintain employment. As mentioned above, pain can also have other negative physical effects on the body’s systems like the immune and cardiovascular system and may increase the potential for future pain in other areas. Pain also causes people to feel stressed that will not only have an impact on their lives but also can prolong their recovery.
Different patients react differently to pain medications and they also have different levels of pain tolerance. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone with the same diagnosis. For example, morphine is a common drug administered post-surgery and to cancer patients. However, many do not tolerate it well, develop adverse reactions, or don’t get any pain relief. Those responsible for these patients’ pain relief will need to find alternative medications to alleviate their pain.