An interdisciplinary approach to safe opioid prescribing and administration for surgical patients at an academic medical center

J Clin Nurs. 2022 Feb;31(3-4):454-463. doi: 10.1111/jocn.15561. Epub 2020 Dec 2.


Aim and objectives: To explore and understand the current practice, perceptions, and knowledge of general surgery trainees, advanced practice providers, and surgical nurses regarding opioid prescribing and administration. To this end, a novel opioid education and training was introduced to educate these practitioners on safe opioid practices in surgical patients.

Background: National awareness of the opioid epidemic has increased significantly in the last several years. However, there remain a disturbingly high number of opioid prescriptions written in the US indicating a need for improved provider and nurse education. This involves increasing awareness and understanding of national guidelines as well as implementing multi-modal therapy to treat pain.

Design: Pre-post-intervention quality improvement project.

Methods: An opioid education and training involving a morphine equivalent daily dosing calculator in the electronic medical record was provided to 26 surgical trainees, eight advanced practice providers and 97 surgical nurses in November 2019. Perceptions, current practice and knowledge were measured using a pre- and post-intervention survey (SQUIRE checklist).

Results: The survey results showed a positive clinical change in perception of opioid use in surgical patients following the intervention and a modest decrease in the average morphine equivalent daily dosing at discharge in general and transplant surgery patients.

Conclusions: Effective pain management for surgical patients must be individualised. Safe opioid prescribing should involve an interdisciplinary approach with all members of the team undergoing assessment of their opioid knowledge and prescribing habits, easily accessible training tools and opioid calculators in the electronic medical record.

Relevance to clinical practice: Our initiative may provide useful information to settings that replicate use of a morphine equivalent daily dosing calculator in the electronic medical record. Utilisation of safe opioid prescribing tools in the electronic medical record and continuing education for providers and nurses can help ensure the safety of surgical patients.

Keywords: advanced practice providers; morphine milligram equivalent (MME); nurses; postoperative pain management; safe opioid prescribing; surgical trainees.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Analgesics, Opioid* / therapeutic use
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders*
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'


  • Analgesics, Opioid