Background The authors aimed to investigate patients' and practitioners' views and experiences of pre-hospital pain management to inform improvements in care and a patient-centred approach to treatment.
Methods This was a qualitative study involving a single emergency medical system. Data were gathered through focus groups and semi-structured interviews. Participants were purposively sampled from patients transported by ambulance to hospital with a painful condition during the past 6 months, ambulance service and emergency department (ED) clinicians. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed and thematic analysis was conducted.
Results 55 participants were interviewed: 17 patients, 25 ambulance clinicians and 13 ED clinicians. Key themes included: (1) consider beliefs of patients and staff in pain management; (2) widen pain assessment strategies; (3) optimise non-drug treatment; (4) increase drug treatment options; and (5) enhance communication and coordination along the pre-hospital pain management pathway. Patients and staff expected pain to be relieved in the ambulance; however, refusal of or inadequate analgesia were common. Pain was commonly assessed using a verbal score, but practitioners' views of severity were sometimes discordant with this. Morphine and Entonox were commonly used to treat pain. Reassurance, positioning and immobilisation were used as alternatives to drugs. Pre-hospital pain management could be improved by addressing practitioner and patient barriers, increasing available drugs and developing multi-organisational pain management protocols supported by training for staff.
Conclusions Pain is often poorly managed and undertreated in the pre-hospital environment. The authors' findings may be used to inform guidance, education and policy to improve the pre-hospital pain management pathway.
- pre-hospital care
- emergency medical services
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