Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

First Advisor

Tracy D. Arnold

Abstract

In many clinical settings, nurses have a vital role in pain assessment and titration of opioid doses. Surveys of nurses have revealed knowledge deficits in these areas that are thought to contribute to under-treatment of pain. The present study surveys nurses' knowledge and attitudes about assessment and treatment of pain and confirms that nurses continue to undertreat pain. As shown in previous studies, nurses may be more influenced by the patient's behavior than the patient's self-report of pain, especially in relation to decisions about opioid administration. Nurses are less likely to manage a previously safe but ineffective dose of opioid for a smiling patient than a grimacing patient. Survey results reveal a tendency for nurses' personal opinions and lack of understanding about the patients' pain, rather than their assessments, to influence choice of opioid dose and to contribute to insufficiency of managing pain. A quantitative study was used. Postoperative nurses (n = 384) were recruited from a large academic medical center. Data was collected on nurses' knowledge of pain management using the Nurses' Knowledge and Attitudes Survey, on perceived barriers to pain. The overall average correct response rate for the knowledge scale was 72.2%, indicating poor knowledge of pain management. Knowledge of pain management was significantly and negatively related to perceived barriers to pain management. Knowledge of pain was not correlated by nurses' education level or years of experience. The results indicated a need to strengthen pain education. Pain education should target knowledge deficits and barriers to changing pain management approaches for all nurses.

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