The aim of this prospective study was to assess the behavior of emergency department (ED) nurses with regard to pain and their role in pain management in a real-life clinical setting.
A total of 509 consecutive patients were enrolled during a 6-week period. A case-report form was used to collect data on nurses’ approaches to pain, time to analgesia provision, and patient-perceived quality of analgesia.
Triage nurses actively inquired about pain in almost every case, but they did not estimate pain intensity in a third of patients. In the majority of cases, triage nurses did not report pain-related findings to the physician, who was the only professional that could prescribe analgesia to patients. The assignment of the color-coding of triage by nurses appears to be related to the perceived severity of the clinical case and a more comprehensive evaluation of pain. More than half of patients were at least fairly satisfied with analgesia.
Pain is increasingly screened during triage, but its comprehensive assessment and management still lack systematic application. We believe that further education and implementation of analgesia protocols may empower nurses to manage ED patients’ pain more effectively and in a more timely manner.