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Nurs Res. 2000 Jul-Aug;49(4):191-200.

The impact of nurses' empathic responses on patients' pain management in acute care.

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Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Although nurses have the major responsibility for pain management, little is known about nurses' responses to patients in the process of managing acute pain.


To examine the relationship between nurses' empathic responses and their patients' pain intensity and analgesic administration after surgery.


Two hundred twenty-five patients from four cardiovascular units in three university-affiliated hospitals were interviewed on the third day after their initial, uncomplicated coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery about their pain and current pain management. Concurrently, their nurses' (n = 94) empathy and pain knowledge and beliefs were assessed. Patient data were aggregated and linked with the assigned nurse to form 80 nurse-patient pairs.


Nurses were moderately empathic, and their responses did not significantly influence their patients' pain intensity or analgesia administered. Patients reported moderate to severe pain but received only 47% of their prescribed analgesia. Patients' perceptions of their nurse's attention to their pain were not positive, and empathy explained only 3% of variance in patients' pain intensity. Deficits in knowledge and misbeliefs about pain management were evident for nurses independent of empathy, and knowledge explained 7% of variance in analgesia administered. Hospital sites varied significantly in analgesic practices and pain inservice education for nurses.


Empathy was not associated with patients' pain intensity or analgesic administration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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