Critical Care Nurses' Pain Assessment and Management Practices: A Survey in Canada Journal Articles uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: Regular pain assessment can lead to decreased incidence of pain and shorter durations of mechanical ventilation and stays in the intensive care unit. OBJECTIVES: To document knowledge and perceptions of pain assessment and management practices among Canadian intensive care unit nurses. METHODS: A self-administered questionnaire was mailed to 3753 intensive care unit nurses identified through the 12 Canadian provincial/territorial nursing associations responsible for professional regulation. RESULTS: A total of 842 nurses (24%) responded, and 802 surveys could be evaluated. Nurses were significantly less likely (P < .001) to use a pain assessment tool for patients unable to communicate (267 nurses, 33%) than for patients able to self-report (712 nurses, 89%). Significantly fewer respondents (P < .001) rated behavioral pain assessment tools as moderately to extremely important (595 nurses, 74%) compared with self-report tools (703 nurses, 88%). Routine (>50% of the time) discussion of pain scores during nursing handover was reported by 492 nurses (61%), and targeting of analgesia to a pain score or other assessment parameters by physicians by 333 nurses (42%). Few nurses (n = 235; 29%) were aware of professional society guidelines for pain assessment and management. Routine use of a behavioral pain tool was associated with awareness of published guidelines (odds ratio, 2.5; 95% CI, 1.7-3.7) and clinical availability of the tool (odds ratio, 2.6; 95% CI, 1.6-4.3). CONCLUSIONS: A substantial proportion of intensive care unit nurses did not use pain assessment tools for patients unable to communicate and were unaware of pain management guidelines published by professional societies.


  • Rose, L
  • Smith, O
  • Gelinas, C
  • Haslam, L
  • Dale, C
  • Luk, E
  • Burry, L
  • McGillion, Michael
  • Mehta, S
  • Watt-Watson, J

publication date

  • July 1, 2012