Tackling pain before providers enter real world

Pain is the No. 1 reason people seek care, but how providers study and prepare to address the phenomenon varies from school to school and from state to state. Educators at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis and the UC Davis School of Medicine are partnering to develop novel curricula, so nurses, physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants nationwide will enter the workforce armed with comprehensive pain knowledge, not just a prescription pad.

The Interprofessional Pain Management Competency Program, established in 2011, sought to address this issue by identifying core competencies in pain management for prelicensure clinical education. The result: four dimensions of pain that can serve as a framework in the development of comprehensive and effective pain care management curricula.

“No one profession works solo. They need to work together and in order to do that they have to understand the scopes of practice, and the roles and responsibility of the other team members in order to work together on behalf of people and families or populations,” explains Scott Fishman, chief of the UC Davis School of Medicine Division of Pain Medicine. “As all health professions will confront pain and its management, students in these fields deserve the training necessary for competency in managing pain.”

Fishman, along with School of Nursing Founding Dean Heather M. Young, leads a series of educational modules using chronic pain management as the prism through which clinicians can model — and students can learn — interprofessional, team-based, person-centered care. This ongoing foundational work could impact the curriculum of every program that educates and certifies clinicians across health professions. Young and Fishman also lead the newly established UC Davis Center for Advancing Pain Relief, a research initiative aimed at breaking down silos with the bold mission of transforming pain care.

“Getting people together to learn together when they come from different cultures and different places is a challenge; it’s not a natural thing for us to do,” adds Heather M. Young, center co-director. “But pain is a compelling and important issue that presents an absolutely perfect topic for innovation and work in interprofessional teamwork, education, research and practice.”

“Our work isn’t done until pain is alleviated,” Young says.