Implementing Best Practice Guidelines in Pain Assessment and Management on a Women's Psychiatric Inpatient Unit: Exploring Patients' Perceptions

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Assessing and managing chronic pain in women with histories of interpersonal trauma, mood disorders and co-morbid addiction is complex. The aim of this paper is to report on the findings from a quality improvement project exploring women's experiences who have co-occurring mental health issues, addiction and chronic pain. Exploring perceptions was an initial step in implementing the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) Best Practice Guideline (BPG) on the Assessment and Management of Pain. Focus group discussions were conducted using an exploratory design with 10 women who were hospitalized in an acute psychiatric unit. Our findings suggest that these women view their pain as complex and often feel powerless within an acute psychiatric setting resorting to coping through self management. The women expressed the importance of therapeutic relationships with clinicians in assessing and managing their pain. The implications of this study suggest that patients have a key role in informing the implementation and applicability of best practice guidelines. Validating the patient's personal pain management experience and particular psychological and physical therapies were suggested as strategies to enhance the patient's quality of life. Many clinicians working in mental health are knowledgeable about these therapies, but may not be aware of the application to managing physical pain.

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