Numeric rating scale offered to fewer than half of hospitalized pain patients

March 10, 2011

According to a survey published in the March issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing, nearly two-thirds of hospital in-patients had experienced pain in the previous 24 hours, and 42% of those rated their pain as more than 7 out of 10.

According to a survey published in the March issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing, nearly two-thirds of hospital in-patients had experienced pain in the previous 24 hours, and 42% of those rated their pain as more than 7 out of 10.

Researchers from Uppsala University, Sweden, surveyed 759 patients ranging in age from 6 weeks old to 95 years old; parents completed the surveys for the younger children. Eighty percent of patients had been asked about their pain levels by staff, but fewer than half of those had been asked to rate their pain on the numeric rating scale.

Approximately 30% of the patients were completely satisfied with their participation in pain management, while 11.5% were not at all satisfied. The average age of the patients was 59, and 52% were female. Just over two-thirds (68%) of the 1,112 patients in the hospital on the day the survey was taken were able or willing to take part.

"Pain is a natural part of many medical conditions, but it can have a negative affect on quality of life, how successful treatment is, and the patient's prognosis," said lead author Barbro Wadensten, PhD, RN, associate professor in the Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences at the University.

"Managing a patient's pain is very important, and our survey sought to quantify how common pain was, how it was being managed by hospital staff, and whether patients were satisfied with the opportunities they were offered to get involved in their own pain management."

Using the numeric rating scale helps patients to communicate their pain, makes them feel more involved in their care, and improves communication between patients and healthcare staff, Wadensten added.