Thoughts about Pain from a Palliative Care Coordinator

This essay was submitted in 2011 in application for a PainEDU/PAINWeek scholarship. Though not a winner, this essay was found to have special merit.

I am the Palliative Care Coordinator of a newly developing palliative care unit. My job description includes assisting with the development of new policies and procedures. I am responsible for developing the educational material and the training of the staff nurses. I will be accountable for planning, implementing and evaluating the provision of palliative care to the patient and delivering hands on care to the patients/families in collaboration with the Palliative Care Team and the medical director. I am employed by Redmond Regional Medical Center in Rome, Georgia.

Redmond Regional Medical Center is a 230 bed acute care facility, serving as a referral source for all of Northwest Georgia and parts of Alabama. The hospital is fully accredited by The Joint Commission. Redmond offers a variety of inpatient and outpatient programs, many of which are unique to the northwest Georgia region. The majority of the patient population that we take care of is geriatric. My role in the organization has been as a staff nurse on the medical oncology floor until the development of the Palliative Care Unit started, and then I started assisting with the development of the unit along with taking care of oncology patients admitted to our floor.

I expect attending PAINWeek 2011 to benefit the new Palliative Care Unit that my organization will be opening by enhancing my knowledge and skills in pain management, so that I can bring that knowledge and those skills back to my organization and train other nurses in pain management. It would be great if not only my organization benefited, but if I could bring the knowledge and skills in pain management back to the Northwest GA region from PAINWeek 2011 and share it with the other area hospitals.

I have not found a lot of pain education classes in my area. I live in Northwest GA, so I usually have to go out of town to receive any education on pain management. Nurses don’t always have the free time or extra money to travel out of town to get the education needed to stay up to date on nursing issues. I have traveled to Greenwood, South Carolina to take a Pain Resource Nurse class through Carolinas Center for Hospice and End of Life Care.

I have been a Registered Nurse for 5 years with my BSN. I have worked in Respiratory, GI, Cardiac, Neuro/Stroke and Oncology. Pain is in all areas of nursing and I think that all nurses should have extended knowledge in pain management. I feel like pain is sometimes underestimated by the physicians and nurses, due to the so called “drug seekers”.

Pain is what the patient says it is. I have been getting treated for chronic headaches for about 4 months now. After waking up every morning for over a year with a headache and still performing my every day activities without missing a day at work, nobody knew I was suffering with a headache. Then last June I ended up in the Emergency Room with a kidney stone. I walked into the ER in severe pain, but apparently I didn’t show signs of pain and since my blood pressure wasn’t elevated, only my pulse. The nurse did make sure I knew that most people had an elevated blood pressure when they were in a lot of pain. I knew how bad I was hurting and after being in a room for an hour I called the nurse and demanded she get a doctor in there to give me something for the pain.

I had a CT scan which showed a 3 ½ x 7 mm kidney stone. The pain I was experiencing was worse than labor pain. So since that night, I have become very committed to learning and teaching as much as I can about pain. I am dedicated to taking care of patients and making sure all of their symptoms are managed. I have been giving one hundred and ten percent on the opening and success of our palliative care unit.