OUCH! – Pain control and nursing related issues

The last decade or so the medical field has been placed under greater than normal scrutiny with issues concerning pain control. Now considered the “5th vital sign” nurses are expected to be even more of a patient advocate in assessing and treating pain. I think it’s great that there is a large emphasis placed on the comfort of patients experiencing pain, but there are some problems associated with this extra pressure. For example, a nurse might be afraid of being sued now for not giving a patient enough pain control, when worried about that said nurse might be more apt to giving TOO much pain medicine. I used to work in the post anesthesia care unit of an OR department. This is a unit where pain control is a major issue anyway. I recall being in several situations where a patient was barely conscious but rating pain level 9-10. What is a nurse supposed to do? Of course if I felt like respiratory depressing was becoming an issue I would hold the pain meds, but I could not help but feel I might get in trouble later for doing so. Pain is terrible, but scaring nurses with legal tactics or threats of lawsuits is probably not the answer.

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