Standardising analgesic administration for nurses: a prospective intervention study
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Background Uncontrolled pain reduces quality of life, delays recovery from surgery and can potentially contribute to the development of chronic pain. Strategies to improve pain management are desirable in view of these detrimental outcomes, yet frequently they are predominately medically based despite nurses playing key roles in pain assessment and analgesic administration. Objective To develop an algorithm-based guidance addressing nurses’ pain assessment and analgesic administration and investigating its impact on quality of pain management. Setting Two orthopaedic units in a university hospital. Method An interdisciplinary expert panel consisting of physicians, nurses and clinical pharmacists developed an algorithm-based guidance in analgesic administration for nurses. The guidance was based on current guidelines addressing the appropriate use of analgesics. In a prospective intervention study, clinical pharmacists acted as independent monitors who assessed nurses’ pain assessment and analgesic administration before (control period: usual care without any further support) and after implementation of the algorithm-based guidance (intervention period). We evaluated patient-nurse contacts for guideline adherence. We predefined guideline adherence (main outcome) as fulfilling all three of the following criteria: (A) nurses’ pain intensity assessment, (B) their assessment of the patients’ need for analgesics, and (C) analgesic administration depending on patients’ individual pain intensity (including choice of prescribed analgesics). Main outcome measure Adherence to pain management guidelines. Results We analysed 706 patient-nurse contacts with 162 patients in the control and 748 contacts with 168 patients in the intervention period. Without support, guidelines were followed in 6 % of the patient contacts. We achieved an increase to 54 % (p < 0.001) after guidance implementation (main outcome). Guideline adherence decreased with rising pain intensity (slope coefficient −0.763, p < 0.001). Conclusion Especially in patients suffering from severe pain, current guidelines were not strictly followed by nurses when administering analgesics. Guideline adherence improved eightfold by implementing an algorithm-based guidance.
KeywordsAlgorithms Analgesics Clinical pharmacists Decision making Guideline adherence Germany Hospital Nursing Staff Pain management
We would like to thank all physicians, nurses and patients in the participating units for their helpful collaboration. We thank all students who acted as monitors for their support, Benjamin R. Auer for his helpful advice on the statistical analysis, Lena Schrader for language editing and two anonymous reviewers for their highly valuable comments and suggestions.
This study was supported in part by the Saxony Chamber of Pharmacists.
Conflicts of interest
Authors and the acknowledged persons declare that they have no conflict of interest concerning this paper.
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