Veterinary students spend more time learning about pain management than nurse undergraduates, according to a nursing academic who wants an overhaul of training in the area.
Management of pain should be a basic human right, Eloise Carr told Nursing Times ahead of her inaugural lecture as a professor at Bournemouth University last week.
Professor Carr, who has spent more than 20 years researching pain management, called for nursing courses to spend more time teaching the subject.
Research by Professor Carr and a team from the British Pain Society found that, on average, nursing courses offer 10 hours of teaching on pain management, compared to more than 27 for vets. Midwives receive just six hours.
She told Nursing Times she understood there were lots of pressures on the nursing curriculum, but said she would like to see pain management have a similar profile to infection control.
“Nurses are with the patient 24/7 in hospital, so they’re in a really good position to know how their pain is and, if the prescription isn’t strong enough, they need to have the confidence to challenge that,” she said.
“I would like to see recognition that the management of pain is a basic human right. I’d like to see that belief included in the under graduate curriculum,” she added.
Prof Carr’s research has looked at barriers to better pain management. On a patient level, she said “stoical” British attitudes meant many patients just accepted pain.
“If we treated [pain management] like a public health issue and educated the public, they would become much better at asking for good pain management care,” she said.
At an organisational level she warned that trust protocols, such as requiring two nurses to check the dosage of an opiate before it was administered, could leave patients without relief unnecessarily.
She said: “This takes time and there isn’t any legal reason why you need two nurses to check.”
Is pain management given a high enough profile in nursing practice?