Introduction: The purpose of this study was to determine areas of emergency nurses' knowledge deficit regarding pain management, and to identify barriers to pain management as perceived by emergency nurses.
Methods: Data were collected anonymously in a mail survey using a 52-item knowledge questionnaire addressing pain management principles and asking emergency nurses (Illinois Emergency Nurses Association members) to rate various barriers as to how often they affect their practice. Questionnaires were mailed to all Illinois ENA members (n = 1000).
Results: Three hundred five emergency nurses' questionnaires were returned. A significant deficit existed on 2 domains of knowledge: understanding of the terms "addiction," "tolerance," and "dependence"; and knowledge of various pharmacologic analgesic principles. Nurses with a master's degree or higher, or those who attended a 1-day seminar on pain management, achieved statistically significantly higher scores. The 2 barriers identified by emergency nurses as the most common were the inability to administer medication until a diagnosis is made (53%), and inadequate assessment of pain and pain relief (48%) (the percentage indicates how often the emergency nurses believed the barrier was present in their practice).
Discussion: The data indicate that emergency nurses may not have a good understanding of the management of pain with drugs, or of such issues as risk of addiction.