Purpose: To systematically analyze school personnel's understanding of adolescent chronic pain problems and to learn how healthcare and school systems can collaborate more effectively to address these problems.
Methods: Focus group methodology was employed in middle- and high-school settings. Five groups, comprised of 38 schoolteachers, administrators, school nurses, and guidance/mental health staff participated.
Results: Transcript analyses indicate that focus group members cited many challenges related to working with adolescents with pain in school (including high absence rates, wide individual variation in presentation of symptoms and impairment, the need to balance accommodations with school policies, attending to the needs of other students, and dealing with parents) and identified needs for more information about chronic pain problems and more guidance from healthcare professionals regarding how to manage pain symptoms and pain-related behaviors in the school setting.
Conclusions: Results indicate that school personnel struggle when they encounter chronic pain problems in the school setting and feel inadequately educated about how to work effectively with students with chronic pain. Improved collaboration between healthcare and school systems is needed and could increase school success (i.e., the ability to attend school and to perform to the best of one's abilities) for adolescents with chronic pain disorders.