Aims and objectives. To provide information on the profile and practice of nurses in the UK who prescribe medication for pain.
Background. Pain is widely under-reported and under-treated and can have negative consequences for health and psychosocial well-being. Indications are that nurses can improve treatment and access to pain medications when they prescribe. Whilst nurses working in many practice areas treat patients with pain, little is known about the profile, prescribing practice or training needs of these nurses.
Design. A descriptive questionnaire survey.
Method. An online questionnaire was used to survey 214 nurses who prescribed for pain in the UK between May and July 2010. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and non-parametric tests.
Results. Half the participants (50%) worked in primary care, 32% in secondary care and 14% worked across care settings. A range of services were provided, including general practice, palliative care, pain management, emergency care, walk-in-centres and out-of-hours. The majority (86%) independently prescribed 1–20 items per week. Non-opioid and weak opioids analgesics were prescribed by most (95%) nurses, whereas fewer (35%) prescribed strong opioids. Training in pain had been undertaken by 97% and 82% felt adequately trained, although 28% had problems accessing training. Those with specialist training prescribed a wider range of pain medications, were more likely to prescribe strong opioids and were more often in pain management roles.
Conclusion. Nurses prescribe for pain in a range of settings with an emphasis on the treatment of minor ailments and acute pain. A range of medications are prescribed, and most nurses have access to training.
Relevance to clinical practice. The nursing contribution to pain treatment must be acknowledged within initiatives to improve pain management. Access to ongoing training is required to support nurse development in this area of practice to maximise benefits.