The objective of this audit was to evaluate the impact of brief educational intervention on prompt recognition and treatment of pain in the emergency department. The audit was performed on all patients in the emergency department with pain presenting over a 24-h period on three occasions: preintervention, 1-week postintervention and at 4 months. In 151 patients, pain severity scores were mild (24%), moderate (42%), severe (16%) and unknown (18%). Pain score documentation at triage improved from 72 to 94% during the audit (P = 0.01). There was no significant difference in the number of patients treated within 20 min for severe pain (P = 0.076) and within 60 min for moderate pain (P = 0.796) between audits. The likelihood of receiving analgesia within 20 min increased with the patients' pain category (relative risk: 1.8 95% confidence interval: 1.4–2.3). Documentation of pain assessment and the use of pain scores at triage improved after a brief educational intervention but there was no measurable impact on treatment times.