How Faculty and Staff Can Improve Pain Care and Treatment for Patients – Michigan Medicine Headlines

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Key points to remember:

  • September is Pain Awareness Month.
  • Pain is a personal experience that must be understood and taken into account in treatment.
  • The Pain Committee offers many resources and treatments for pain management.

September is Pain Awareness Month, making it the perfect time for the Script Rewrite Team and Pain Committee to share their knowledge and resources on pain and opioid management with the Michigan medical community. The aim is to help support best practice and institutional policy and improve the care provided by faculty and staff.

Adult and Pediatric Acute Pain Service (APS) Team

Same procedure, different experiences

Most importantly, the team wants everyone who works directly or indirectly with patients to know that pain is a very personal experience and that the first important step in developing an informed and thoughtful treatment approach requires knowing what pain is and how patients experience it.

“Studies show that people have a different physiological response to the same stimulus,” said Associate Professor of Anesthesiology Paul Hilliard, MD “Each person experiences pain in a different way. We see this all the time. Two patients different people may have the same procedure with the same provider using the same type of anesthetic, but have very different pain experiences.

According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), pain is defined as: “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with or resembling that associated with actual or potential tissue damage.”

Adult and Pediatric Acute Pain Service (SPA) day team

But there is so much more to it. The IASP also outlines six key points for care teams to understand about pain:

  • Pain is always a personal experience that is influenced to varying degrees by biological, psychological and social factors.
  • Pain is not just an activity of sensory neurons.
  • Through their life experiences, individuals learn the concept of pain.
  • A person’s report of an experience as pain must be respected.
  • Although pain generally plays an adaptive role, it can have adverse effects on social and psychological function and well-being.
  • Verbal description is only one of many behaviors to express pain; nonverbal individuals can and do experience pain, and often represent a particularly vulnerable group of patients, deserving special attention in the assessment and treatment of pain.

Treatment options for pain

When a patient’s medical care involves pain, especially chronic and acute pain combined, it can present a unique set of challenges. Pain and its treatment have many aspects, especially chronic pain. Properly treating multiple sources of pain often requires more than a pill, nerve block, or physical therapy. Paying close attention to the cognitive and behavioral aspect of a person’s pain experience is key to success.

“Much of the experience of pain has implications for emotional health – feelings of frustration, discouragement and sometimes despair, all of which must be considered when treating someone with pain,” said pain psychologist Eric Scott.

According to Jillian DiClemente, pain pharmacist, “Taking the time to actively listen to a patient’s pain story can lead to the development of a more comprehensive pain treatment plan and build a relationship of trust with the patient. Understanding these factors provides a comprehensive approach to treating and monitoring a patient’s pain.

“Our goal is to promote evidence-based practice and use multimodal analgesics and non-pharmacological therapies to improve quality of care and patient outcomes,” said Alex Koumoutsopoulos, Patient Management Coordinator pain, MHSA, RN, PMGT-BC.

“Simple interventions like aromatherapy, warm blankets, music therapy, and distraction can have overwhelmingly positive results and should not be considered useful interventions for improving pain outcomes,” said Katie Barwig, MSRN.

Addictions Counseling Team (ACT)

When and who to consult

Several teams are available to obtain support and consultation for your specific patient:

  • Adult and Pediatric Acute Pain Service (APS) whether the patient may benefit from postoperative pain management, epidural or peripheral nerve block.
  • Palliative Care Consultation Service (PCCS) if the patient has a life-limiting illness (within the next few years), an acute life-threatening illness, cancer-related pain, or is being followed at a UM Health palliative care clinic.
  • Addictions Counseling Team (ACT) (pager number 60004) if patient has opioid use disorder (OUD) at assessment, history of OUD now with worsening pain, or may benefit from initiation/taking supported with buprenorphine or methadone for TOU.
  • APS Consult pediatric pain nurse (pilot) if the patient is in a Children’s and Women’s (C&W) hospital and you want to review the patient’s pain treatment plan or want to learn how to offer new non-pharmacological pain management strategies to your patients.

More resources

There are several resources to help guide providers in outpatient and inpatient settings. The Pain Management – NCBI Library and pain management site offers many additional resources.

Clinicians can scan it with a smartphone to access the webpage through the VPN.

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