By Chris Vinton, Medical Solutions Quality Assurance Specialist
Patient pain can be one of the more difficult aspects to manage when it comes to complete patient care. Pain can’t be measured or objectively found, and it is often reported by patients based on how they have experienced pain in the past. Other times, patients have no experiential basis for rating or conveying the pain they are experiencing.
As with just about everything in the nursing field, pain assessment and management will differ depending on the unit and the hospital. The most common way to assess pain is the numerical measurement scale. Patients rate on a scale from 1-10, but this does have its issues. Patients may come in for an ear ache and they may rate the pain as a 10. To the patient, this may be the worst pain he or she has ever been in, but their condition might not require some of the more serious pain meds. Hospitals do have their own protocol in place on what pain medicine to use and, as always, ask your supervisor if your patient’s pain has not been alleviated after administering medicine.
The 1-10 scale is just a baseline for a patient’s pain. To get a full view of the patient’s pain, there are several things nurses can do — such as observing the patient’s behavior. A patient’s facial expressions may be anything from clenching of teeth or a grimace. They could favor a certain body part or try to protect it with their arms. The pain could cause the patient to experience disorientation or withdraw socially. Use your best judgement when observing for pain and if you aren’t entirely sure, get some guidance from your supervisor.
Pain assessment skills are essential to nurses when it comes to providing quality patient care. Doctors may assist you in pain assessment and will provide the medication for pain management, but ultimately nurses know their patients the best. Your judgement on your patient’s pain is crucial to complete patient care. Your judgements can help alleviate a patient’s pain or even save a patient’s life.