Acute pain is a significant problem in the postoperative setting. Patients report a lack of information about pain-control measures and ineffective pain control. Nurses continue to rely on pharmacologic measures and tend to under-administer analgesics. The purpose of this study was to determine the strategies nurses used to manage patients’ pain in the postoperative setting. It also sought to examine the effect of context, including organization of care, nurses’ prioritization of work activities, and pressures during a working shift, on their pain-management strategies. An observational design was used in two surgical units of a metropolitan teaching hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Six fixed observation times were identified as key periods for pain activities, each comprising a 2-hour duration. An observation period was examined at least 12 times, resulting in the completion of 74 observations and the identification of 316 pain cases. Fifty-two nurses were observed during their normal day’s work with postoperative patients. Six themes were identified: managing pain effectively; prioritizing pain experiences for pain management; missing pain cues for pain management; regulators and enforcers of pain management; preventing pain; and reactive management of pain. The findings highlighted the critical nature of communication between clinicians and patients and among clinicians. It also demonstrated the influence of time on management strategies and the relative importance that nurses place on nonpharmacologic measures in actual practice. This research, which portrays what happens in actual clinical practice, has facilitated the identification of new data that were not evident from other research studies.
Available online 25 May 2005.
Field of Research
111003 Clinical Nursing: Secondary (Acute Care)
Socio Economic Objective
970111 Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences
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