Moving Beyond Pain as the Fifth Vital Sign and Patient Satisfaction Scores to Improve Pain Care in the 21st Century

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Abstract

In an attempt to address the issue of undertreated pain, the Pain as the Fifth Vital Sign (P5VS) Initiative was established to improve the quality of pain care across clinical settings. This initiative included policy efforts such as mandatory pain screening and the implementation of pain-related questions on patient satisfaction surveys. These policies have failed to enhance the treatment of pain and may have unintentionally contributed, in part, to the opioid epidemic. To assess pain more effectively, an inter-professional team approach using multi-dimensional pain assessment tools is needed. The inter-professional team can use these multi-dimensional tools to conduct comprehensive assessments to measure aspects of the pain experience (e.g., psychological, spiritual and socio-emotional pain; impact on daily functioning) beyond its sensory component and establish realistic goals that align with patients' needs. To implement multi-dimensional pain assessments in busy clinical practices, nurses will need to play a central role. Nurses can work to ensure that patients complete the questionnaires prior to the visit. Nurses can also take the lead in the use of new technologies in the form of tablets, smart phones, and mobile apps to facilitate collecting patient-level data in the home or in a waiting room before their visits.

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