This article reports the first phase of a three-phase study to develop and test a pain education programme for family carers of patients with advanced cancer. The purpose of this phase was to develop the pain education programme. Interviews were conducted with 19 family carers to elicit their perceptions about the components, content, amount and timing of an educational programme that might be useful in educating them about pain management. Interviews were taped, transcribed and content analysed. Family carers reported knowledge deficits regarding pain, medications, comfort therapies and general comfort measures. Strategies for learning were described. Findings from these interviews together with results published in the literature were structured into a formal pain management programme. This programme has been pilot tested and evaluated using a randomized clinical trial.