Pain management in Australian emergency departments: current practice, enablers, barriers and future directions

Emerg Med Australas. 2012 Apr;24(2):136-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-6723.2011.01499.x. Epub 2011 Oct 30.


Objective: To explore current pain management practice in Australian EDs and identify enablers and barriers for best-practice pain management.

Methods: Five focus groups and two in-depth interviews were held with ED clinical staff (n= 47) from six hospitals in three states. Participants were asked open-ended questions to determine current pain management practices, enablers and barriers to implementing best-practice pain management, and understand change in practice within the ED setting.

Results: Emergency department staff identified a gap between evidence-based pain management recommendations and everyday practice. Perceived barriers to improving pain management included a lack of time and resources, a greater number of urgent and serious presentations that place pain management as a lower priority, organizational protocols and legislative issues. All groups noted difficulty in applying pain management guidelines in the context of competing priorities in the challenging ED environment. A culture of learning clinical practice from respected senior staff and peers was perceived to be a key enabler. Participants consistently expressed the view that evidence-based practice improvement should be championed by senior clinical staff, and that evidence to demonstrate the benefits of change must be presented to support the need for change.

Conclusions: Effective and sustainable system change requires a strategy that is initiated within the ED, targets opinion leaders, is supported by evidence, and engages all levels of ED staff.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Evidence-Based Practice*
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology
  • Organizational Culture
  • Organizational Innovation*
  • Pain Management* / standards
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care* / methods
  • Surveys and Questionnaires