Postoperative pain management : Nurse perspectives on acute pain services

Abstract: Postoperative pain management (POPM) has remained an area of concern despite major efforts to improve pain assessment and management by the introduction of specified guidelines, advanced techniques for pain alleviation, and education of staff members. Different nurse specialists are involved in the perioperative care of surgical patients. It is still not known to what extent the specific information noted by the nurses about the individual surgical patient at the different steps of the perioperative management is taken into consideration so that a potentially more optimal, individualised POPM as part of acute pain services (APS) can be provided.The aims of the present study were to assess if information of potential value for the POPM is noted by nurse anaesthetists involved in the perioperative management of surgical patients and to what extent such information could be of value for an individualised POPM of surgical patients and if nurse involvement is of importance for the adequacy and efficacy of POPM routines in a nurse-based, anaesthesiologist-supervised acute pain service (APS) model on surgical wards.Semistructured interviews of nurse anaesthetists (n=40), questionnaire responses of staff members (n=375)/surgical patients (n=110) and assessment of medical records (n=135)/database data (n=222) were included for evaluation of factors of importance in the perioperative care and POPM of surgical patients. Descriptive statistics, non-parametric and parametric tests were used for the analysis of the data.It was found that nurse anaesthetists continuously monitor different stress evoked physiological signs induced by surgical interventions during general anaesthesia. Nurses considered the signs indicative of pain evoked stimuli and/or insufficient depth of anaesthesia. The intraoperative information of the response pattern and anaesthetic drug requirements of the individual patient noted by the nurse anaesthetist was considered at present not to be routinely taken into consideration but could be a successful strategy in an optimal multi-professional approach to postoperative pain management. The introduction of APS, using a nurse-based anaesthesiologist-supervised model, resulted in more adequate pain management routines, better patient satisfaction with information about POPM, and increased confidence in pain management among nurses on the surgical wards than was noted for the outcome data for the hospital not having introduced such an APS model. Database documentation of outcome measures of POPM for patients receiving postoperative epidural analgesia was found to provide valuable information about the adequacy of the POPM. The feedback of information from the anaesthesia services to the surgical ward nurses was found not to be efficient enough to make ward nurses properly aware of the importance of their own direct involvement in the documentation process of POPM and that such involvement could further optimise POPM outcome

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