Only 66 to 76 percent of hospital patients feel that their pain is well-controlled, according to the latest Summary of HCAPHS Survey Results. Poor pain management can contribute to a variety of problems, including longer hospital stays, delayed wound healing, chronic pain syndrome, depression and substance abuse.
For nursing and medical staff professionals, communicating with patients about pain control is an ongoing challenge. While you make a conscious effort to ensure you’re controlling pain to the best of your ability, your patients may not be experiencing relief from pain because not every patient shares their distress.
Patient Misconceptions About Pain Management
To help you improve patient comfort and better communicate with patients on the subject of pain, let’s examine a few common beliefs about pain management that may affect the satisfaction rate:
- Handling pain without complaint is a show of character. Admitting that I’m in pain is a character deficit, even if the pain is significant.
- Pain is part of the healing process. It would be unrealistic not to expect some level of pain during a hospital stay.
- The staff will think I’m a complainer if I say that the pain medication isn’t working.
- If I take pain medication, I’ll become addicted.
How to Improve Pain Management Communication
Improving the patient experience starts with frank conversations about the benefits of pain relief and the options available. Use the following talking points to educate your patients on pain management to open up the lines of communication and dispel the beliefs listed above.
- Pain doesn’t have to be part of a hospital visit.
There are a variety of options to handle pain. If one type of medication doesn’t work, you’ll try another. It’s important for patients to let you know as soon as possible if they’re in pain.
- Everyone experiences pain differently.
It’s not a good idea to compare your experience to a friend or family member. There are no “winners” or “losers” when it comes to handling pain. One patient may experience very little pain one day after surgery, while another may need strong pain medication for several days.
- Being the “strong, silent type” can actually delay healing.
Your job is to ensure that pain doesn’t affect your patients’ recovery, but you can only do that if they let you know when they’re having pain. Ongoing pain may signify another issue that needs addressing. The better patients communicate their level of pain, the better you can ensure they’re healing properly.
- Medical professionals are well-versed in helping patients avoid addiction.
Patients who experience severe pain may only need medication for a relatively short period of time. As the pain becomes less severe, the dosage of the medication can be lowered, or the type of medication will be changed to avoid dependence.
Improving pain control starts with asking about pain and comfort levels every time you interact with patients. Although it is tempting to only ask the mandatory “what is your pain level?” question to ensure charting compliance, take the time to thoroughly assess a patient’s pain level with objective observation as well as their report. Some patients will be glad to tell you how they’re feeling, but others may need a little encouragement. Ask follow-up questions if patients hesitate before answering or if they give cues that they are in pain.
When patients believe that preventing and controlling their pain is your priority, they will be more likely to be honest about the effectiveness of pain relief measures. This open dialogue will not only improve patient comfort, it will improve patient satisfaction as well.
Boosting patient satisfaction starts with a more patient-focused environment. Learn how to achieve this in your facility with our free eBook, How Nurses Can Increase Satisfaction through Patient-Centered Care.