Study says nurses are key to pain management. So why are some patients suffering?

As the opioid crisis continues to rise and hospitals are looking for new ways to treat pain, a new study says that nurse staffing levels in hospitals are key for hospital patients’ satisfaction for pain management.

“The findings highlight the need for adequate numbers of nursing staff to achieve optimal patient satisfaction with pain management,” said Connell School of Nursing (CSON) Associate Professor Judith Shindul-Rothschild, the lead author of the article, “Beyond the Pain Scale: Provider Communication and Staffing Predictive of Patients’ Satisfaction with Pain Control.”

“Given the opioid crisis, pain management is front and center in health care today,” added Shindul-Rothschild. “We need to think very critically of how we are managing pain, how we are communicating with patients, and how members of treatment teams are communicating with each other.”

Minnesota nurses say they know all too well the pain patients experience when hospitals don’t schedule enough nurses for duty. In a survey of Minnesota nurses by the Minnesota Nurses Association, 42 percent said patients in the last year had experienced prolonged pain or discomfort due to short staffing.

Patients experience prolonged pain when medications can’t be delivered on time. In addition, nurses aren’t able to respond to call lights in a timely manner, and patients are left with needs being unmet.

The consequences of untreated pain include physiological problems apart from human suffering. When a patient’s pain is left untreated, it can impair recovery from acute illness or surgery and can even cause immunosuppression and sleep disturbances.

As the literature shows, untreated pain can also increase morbidity as a result of respiratory dysfunction; increased heart rate and cardiac workload; increased muscular contraction and spasm; decreased gastrointestinal motility and transit; and increased catabolism (Lewis, Heitkemper, & Dirksen, 2004).

From 2014 to 2016, Minnesota nurses reported a 30 percent increase in delays in medication due to short staffing by hospitals, putting more patients at risk for complications and death.

Learn why nurses are asking lawmakers to stand up and support quality patient care and safe nurse-to-patient ratios.

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Unsafe staffing costs a Florida facility $1 billion

From Trial Magazine, March 2014 issue: Trial Magazine, 3/11/14 VERDICTS & SETTLEMENTS Arlene Townsend, 63 suffered a stroke and required 24-hour care. She was admitted to Auburndale Oaks Healthcare Center, a nursing home owned by Trans Healthcare, Inc. In the three years leading up to her death, Townsend suffered numerous fall resulting in broken bones and lacerations, infections, significant weight loss, chronic constipation, skin breakdowns, dehydration, and other problems. She is survived by her adult son. Townsend’s estate sued Trans Healthcare, alleging that it had understaffed the nursing home to increase profits and failed to provide adequate care, including protecting Townsend from falls, ensuring a safe environment, and documenting changes to her condition. The court entered a judgment of liability against the defendant, and the…
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