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Clin J Pain. 2004 Sep-Oct;20(5):331-40.

Evidence-based assessment of acute pain in older adults: current nursing practices and perceived barriers.

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University of Iowa College of Nursing, Iowa City 52242, USA.



To report data on current nurse practice behaviors related to evidence-based assessment of acute pain in older adults, perceived stage of adoption of pain assessment practices, and perceptions of barriers to optimal assessment in this population.


Medical records from 709 older adult patients hospitalized with hip fractures from 12 acute care settings were abstracted for nurse assessment practices during the first 72 hours after admission. Questionnaires sent to nurses on study units regarding perceived stage of adoption and barriers to assessment in older adults.


Data revealed several areas in which pain assessment practices were not optimal. Pain was not routinely assessed every 4 hours, and pain location was assessed even less frequently. Pain behaviors were assessed more in patients with a diagnosis of dementia compared to those without dementia, but the frequency of pain behavior assessments was low. Pain was not routinely assessed within 60 minutes of administering an analgesic. Nurses reported not using optimal pain assessment practices even when they were aware of and persuaded that those practices were desirable. In addition, nurses reported that difficulty communicating with patients created the greatest challenge in managing pain.


Our data suggest that pain is not being assessed and reassessed in a manner that is consistent with current practice recommendations in older adult patients with pathologic processes that highly suggest the presence of acute pain.

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