Pain: a content review of undergraduate pre-registration nurse education in the United Kingdom

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Pain is a global health issue, with poor assessment and management of pain associated with serious disability and detrimental socio economic consequences. Pain is also a closely associated symptom of the three major causes of death in the developed world; Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke and Cancer. There is a significant body of work which indicates that current nursing practice has failed to address pain as a priority, resulting in poor practice and unnecessary patient suffering. Additionally nurse education appears to lack focus or emphasis on the importance of pain assessment and its management.
A three step online search process was carried out across 71 Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) in the United Kingdom (UK) which deliver approved undergraduate nurse education programmes. Step one to find detailed programme documentation, step 2 to find reference to pain in the detailed documents and step 3 to find reference to pain in nursing curricula across all UK HEI websites, using Google and each HEIs site specific search tool.
The word pain featured minimally in programme documents, with 9 (13%) documents making reference to it, this includes 3 occurrences which were not relevant to the programme content. The word pain also featured minimally in the content of programmes/modules on the website search, with no references at all to pain in undergraduate pre-registration nursing programmes. Those references found during the website search were for continuing professional development (CPD) or Masters level programmes.
Inspite of the global importance of pain as a major health issue both in its own right, and as a significant symptom of leading causes of death and illness, pain appears to be a neglected area within the undergraduate nursing curriculum. Evidence suggests that improving nurse education in this area can have positive impacts on clinical practice, however without educational input the current levels of poor practice are unlikely to improve and unnecessary patient suffering will continue. Undergraduate nurse education in the UK needs to review its current approach to content and ensure that pain is appropriately and prominently featured within pre-registration nurse education.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNurse Education Today
Early online date7 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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