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Crit Care Nurs Clin North Am. 2001 Jun;13(2):151-66.

Pain management in the culture of critical care.

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Department of Nursing and Patient Care Services, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City 52242, USA.


Pain of critically ill patients is undertreated. Undertreatment of pain may be related, in part, to the culture of critical care practice, where nurses are challenged to meet competing patient demands. Implementation of appropriate pain management strategies is within the critical care nurse's scope of practice and must be a priority when delivering patient care. Although the multidisciplinary team can make the best holistic pain management plan, nurses have extensive independence and latitude in administration of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions. It is, in fact, "primarily the nurses' responsibility to administer the proper drug and dose at the proper time". Fostering a culture within critical care units that promotes optimal pain management is influenced by unit leadership, the values held by the staff, nurse competency, and an effective quality program that includes process and outcome indicators of pain management.

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