Pain Management & Opioid Management in Palliative Care

Full access to CAPC tools and technical assistance on managing pain, is reserved for members CAPC offers an essential course curriculum as well as Designation status in Pain Management. Log in now if you're from a member institution. Or to learn more about membership, please call Member Services at 212-201-2674.

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Did you know hydromorphone is five times more potent than morphine?

Getting this wrong can put your patient into respiratory distress, and yet clinical training on the safe and effective use of opioids has been largely absent from most medical education. Indeed, the majority of health professionals today have had little to no training in core palliative care competencies such as pain and symptom management or skilled communication with patients and families.

Benefits of Integrated Pain Management

Dr. Lynn Hallarman of Stony Brook Medical Center describes why integrated pain management skills can benefit patients. Dr. Hallarman says taking the time to have comprehensive pain conversations with patients can lead to more accurate decisions about medicine and may decrease length of stay.

In a recent study, more than three-quarters of oncologists – a group whose patients are at very high risk of pain, reported that their own training in the management of pain was poor. Additional data supports that there is a chronic shortage of palliative care specialists, with currently only one palliative care physician for every 1,200 seriously ill patients.

Primary (generalist) palliative care training across health systems, in addition to specialist training, is the key to providing quality care for our growing population of patients with serious illness. Complex pain robs patients of quality of life. It contributes to depression and anxiety, and the stress caused by unrelieved pain can have physically harmful side effects. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, patient and family satisfaction with care is strongly tied to their experiences with pain.

All Frontline Clinicians Need Basic Training and Skills in Palliative Care

All frontline clinicians need to learn key skills such as how to conduct a comprehensive pain assessment, how to match the drug class to the pain and how to prescribe opioids appropriately for different types of patients. Once a protocol is in place for pain management and the use of opioids, physicians also need to learn how to monitor effectiveness, counter any side effects and manage the risk for substance use disorder.

The need to strengthen the palliative care workforce with core pain and symptom management skills has never been more urgent. An estimated 90 million Americans are living with serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, frailty, functional dependency and/or dementia. This number is expected to more than double over the next 25 years as the baby boomer generation reaches old age. America is not ready. Universal training for all clinicians in core palliative care skills is the best path to preparedness.

Member organizations can take a deep dive into Pain Management and opioid prescribing through our courses, or through a variety of webinars, virtual office hours, topic-specific discussion forums and more. CAPC Designation is also available to all frontline clinicians. To log in to CAPC Central,  members please click here. To become a member organization, click here.

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