July 19, 2012

UW designated an NIH Center of Excellence in Pain Education

School Of Nursing

Chronic pain affects approximately 100 million Americans and costs up to $635 billion in medical treatment and lost productivity each year. Yet pain management often is not taught in many health professional schools.

Recognizing the need to change this, the National Institutes of Health have selected 12 schools to develop pain curricula, and the UW has been named the lead site. The center will receive $300,000 to start, with the potential for further funding. The curricula will advance the assessment, diagnosis and safe treatment of a wide variety of pain conditions.

Housed jointly in the schools of nursing and medicine, the UW Center of Excellence in Pain Education is co-led by  Ardith Doorenbos, associate professor of  nursing, and David Tauben, clinical associate professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine. More than 30 core faculty are involved in the center.  They represent all the UW health sciences schools:  nursing, pharmacy, medicine, social work, dentistry and public health.

Ardith Doorenbos from the UW School of Nursing will co-direct the new Center of Excellence in Pain Education.

Ardith Doorenbos from the UW School of Nursing will co-direct the new Center of Excellence in Pain Education.

Ardith Doorenbos from the UW School of Nursing will co-direct the new Center of Excellence in Pain Education.

“Nurses have a great ability to manage the impact of pain,” said Doorenbos, who is from the Department of Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems. “Pain is something that nurses have to deal with often and is one of the top reasons that people go to the emergency room. Nurses take a holistic approach to managing pain, rather than just a pharmacological approach.”

The UW center has three main components: telehealth; interprofessional education; and the integration of pain management content into existing curricula. The center launched the telehealth program for pain management earlier this year to give rural hospitals and practitioners access to a team of experts here at the University of Washington.

“We are hopeful that telehealth will provide better pain management in the patient population in the rural setting,” Doorenbos said. “Overall, along with decreased pain severity, we would like to see less anxiety and depression among patients dealing with chronic pain. We also hope  to see a reduction in hospitalizations and ER visits, a sign of more cost-effective care delivery.”

The interprofessional education program will bring together students from across the health sciences  to learn about pain assessment and diagnosis and each discipline’s individual role in managing pain. Doorenbos notes that the interprofessional opportunities afforded by this center will be instrumental in moving forward.

“Interprofessional education is the way of the future,” she said. “This improved curriculum will really bring students together and help to identify the role that each discipline can play in pain management.”

Doorenbos also notes that the training provided by the center will lead to better care for patients, as the curriculum will teach students how to work in interprofessional health care teams.

“Good teamwork doesn’t just happen, it requires clear communication,” she said. “The center will provide training to students so they work together, which ultimately reduces conflict and miscommunication. This leads to better care for the patient.”

Ten  NIH institutes came together to fund these centers, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is coordinating the project; the National Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; the National Institute of Nursing Research and the National Institute on Aging, among others. Other NIH Centers of Excellence in Pain Education include the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Southern Illinois University. and The University of Rochester in New York.  You can read the full list of schools here.