Aims and objectives. To identify, summarise and critically appraise the current evidence regarding the impact and effectiveness of nurse-led care in acute and chronic pain.
Background. A diverse range of models of care exist within the services available for the management of acute and chronic pain. Primary studies have been conducted evaluating these models, but, review and synthesis of the findings from these studies has not been undertaken.
Design. Literature review.
Method. Searches of Pubmed (NLM) Medline, CINAHL, Web of Knowledge (Science Index, Social Science index), British Nursing Index from January 1996–March 2007 were conducted. The searches were supplemented by an extensive hand search of the literature through references identified from retrieved articles and by contact with experts in the field.
Results. Twenty-one relevant publications were identified and included findings from both primary and secondary care. The areas, in which nurses, caring for patients in pain are involved, include assessment, monitoring, evaluation of pain, interdisciplinary collaboration and medicines management. Education programmes delivered by specialist nurses can improve the assessment and documentation of acute and chronic pain. Educational interventions and the use of protocols by specialist nurses can improve patients understanding of their condition and improve pain control. Acute pain teams, led by nurses, can reduce pain intensity and are cost effective.
Conclusions. Nurses play key roles in the diverse range of models of care that exist in acute and chronic pain. However, there are methodological weaknesses across this body of research evidence and under researched issues that point to a need for further rigorous evaluation.
Relevance to clinical practice. Nurse-led care is an integral element of the pain services offered to patients. This review highlights the effect of this care and the issues that require consideration by those responsible for the development of nurse-led models in acute and chronic pain.