Nominal group technique: a brainstorming tool for identifying areas to improve pain management in hospitalized patients

J Hosp Med. 2012 May-Jun;7(5):416-20. doi: 10.1002/jhm.1900. Epub 2011 Dec 21.


Background: Pain management in hospitalized patients remains a priority area for improvement; effective strategies for consensus development are needed to prioritize interventions.

Objective: To identify challenges, barriers, and perspectives of healthcare providers in managing pain among hospitalized patients.

Design: Qualitative and quantitative group consensus using a brainstorming technique for quality improvement-the nominal group technique (NGT).

Setting: One medical, 1 medical-surgical, and 1 surgical hospital unit at a large academic medical center.

Participants: Nurses, resident physicians, patient care technicians, and unit clerks.

Measurements: Responses and ranking to the NGT question: "What causes uncontrolled pain in your unit?"

Results: Twenty-seven health workers generated a total of 94 ideas. The ideas perceived contributing to a suboptimal pain control were grouped as system factors (timeliness, n = 18 ideas; communication, n = 11; pain assessment, n = 8), human factors (knowledge and experience, n = 16; provider bias, n = 8; patient factors, n = 19), and interface of system and human factors (standardization, n = 14). Knowledge, timeliness, provider bias, and patient factors were the top ranked themes.

Conclusions: Knowledge and timeliness are considered main priorities to improve pain control. NGT is an efficient tool for identifying general and context-specific priority areas for quality improvement; teams of healthcare providers should consider using NGT to address their own challenges and barriers.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Health Personnel / psychology
  • Health Personnel / standards*
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Management / standards*
  • Quality Improvement / standards*