I have been an RN for 35 years and a Pain Management Nurse Practitioner (NP) for the past two decades. I am currently the President of the American Society for Pain Management Nursing (ASPMN). I am keenly aware of the key roles that nurses play in caring for patients with pain and teaching them about the use of pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies to optimize pain relief. As a pain management nurse, I am closely connected to the opioid crisis as I care for patients with pain who suffer from opioid use disorder, and care for patients who are afraid to use opioids, even when pain is very severe, out of fear of OUD. Effective pain management is an important aspect of quality healthcare and it is widely accepted internationally that patients have a right to professional pain assessment and appropriate treatment. Health care practitioners must, therefore, continually balance the legitimate need for opioid analgesics with the serious problems of abuse, diversion, and potential overdoses.
Nurses, as a general rule, spend more time with patients, learn more about all aspects of patients' lives, and are clearly in a better position of knowing the current status of any patient's pain, medication use, and barriers to safe and effective pain management than many other health care practitioners. All members of the health care team have a responsibility to prevent and treat pain and opioid use disorder, but nurses, because of their close and intimate contacts with patients and their families in many settings, are able to educate about the use of multimodal analgesia, including non-pharmacological therapies, and teach about effective and safe use, storage and disposal of opioids. They are also in positions to assess patients for signs of opioid misuse and opioid use disorder, and initiate appropriate interventions.
Nurses are key stakeholders in initiatives aimed at treating and preventing pain and opioid use disorder. ASPMN has actively supported these initiatives as it promotes comprehensive, individualized patient assessments, including assessments of pain as well as risk for opioid-related adverse effects, opioid misuse and opioid use disorder. ASPMN has a history of using research findings to recommend evidence-based practices in its multiple position statements and educational programs. These resources are provided to its members and are communicated to the larger nursing community through publications, conferences, and educational programs. ASPMN is an organization that networks with other nursing organizations throughout the country, and is in an ideal position to communicate the results of the Heal Research to the larger nursing community.