Let's Talk About Pain (with our colleagues)
Updated: Jan 15, 2023
It's difficult to talk about pain although it is everywhere. Although improvements have been made over the past 3o years, pain continues to be under-recognized and under-treated. And often we're not talking about it, with our patients or with our colleagues. As a result of this difficulty, individuals with both acute and chronic pain can feel alone, misunderstood, 'too difficult' for their primary care providers, and sent on a medical odyssey to determine the cause of their pain (if only it were that simple).
While pain IS challenging to manage, have you ever considered what role YOU could play in its treatment if you made that intention to learn more?
As a pain specialist, I've heard 'I'm so glad YOU deal with pain so that I don't have to'.
As there are simply not enough pain specialists to treat all the patients that experience pain, we MUST start the conversation with non-pain specialists to provide cohesive and thoughtful care. Pain education is sparse in medical school but that doesn't need to be the end of the story. While efforts DO need to be made to facilitate more practical medical school education with both acute and chronic pain conditions, there are plenty of opportunities for residents, nurses, attending physicians, physical therapists, physician assistants, everyone to become more involved. Just talking about pain and being curious about your role could be just the thing responsible for decreasing the debility and suffering of those individuals with pain.
Here's how to get involved:
Inquire about the pain management resources available at your institution.
Ask your resident colleagues, other attending physicians, nurses, physician assistants if they have developed pain management education resources. If there is an active pain service, are there educational sessions provided to non-pain specialists?
Ask the individual involved with Quality Improvement at your institution about pain management resources or quality improvement projects. Just being aware about these projects and knowing that your institution is committed to improvement can allow you to make some connections.
No resources available at your institution? No problem.
Explore the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM) website.
Here you can learn about the respected members of the 'pain world', gain access to On Demand Education sessions and Pain Treatment Guidelines, and much more.
Consider joining the Society for Pediatric Pain Management (SPPM) or just check out their website at https://www.pedspainmedicine.org/about/vision/
SPPM is dedicated to the education of anesthesiologists, pediatricians, and other health care providers as well as patients and their families and the general public in the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic pain conditions in children from birth to the age of 18 and older individuals transitioning to adult care.
Visit the ChildKind website
You can check out the resource library to address your areas of interest and see some of the publications available for parents to gain an understanding of how to improve communication with parents about pain
Check out social media platforms - Twitter, Facebook, Clubhouse; follow some of the respected names in pain management and engage with them on various platforms. Here is a list of some pain organizations on Twitter.
@PedsPainMed Society for Pediatric Pain Management
@childpainSIG Pain in Childhood SIG
@ChildKindIntl ChildKind International
@AmerAcadPainMed American Academy of Pain Medicine
Search for pain management podcasts. Here is a list for you to explore. Find these individuals on social media, follow them, and engage in rich conversations.
Next, take the information you've learned and translate it for use in your individual practice. Perhaps this will give you an idea of quality improvement initiatives or just something you can do on a daily basis to improve your delivery of pain management. While 'one size fits all' rarely works in pain management, you can make a considerable difference if you are intent on your attention to improving pain management with every patient you encounter.
What is most important is to engage other colleagues in conversations about pain management; share your experiences, your difficulties, and learn from others. It doesn't need to take a substantial chunk of your time but you do need to start with the intention to improve your understanding of pain management.
Do you have suggestions as to how to increase the conversations about pain management? We'd love to hear them. Put your comments in the space below or in the chat box.