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Pain Research and Management
Volume 12 (2007), Issue 3, Pages 177-184
Original Article

Nursing Staff Knowledge and Beliefs about Pain in Elderly Nursing Home Residents with Dementia

Sandra MG Zwakhalen,1 Jan PH Hamers,1 Rieneke HA Peijnenburg,1 and Martijn PF Berger2

1Department of Health Care and Nursing Sciences, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
2Department of Methodology and Statistics, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

Copyright © 2007 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: Aging is known to be associated with a high prevalence (up to 80%) of persistent pain among residents of nursing homes. However, even with high pain prevalence rates, nursing home residents are at risk for undertreatment. Knowledge deficits and beliefs among nurses influence staff behaviour in pain assessment and management.

OBJECTIVES: To develop a psychometrically sound questionnaire and to gather information about knowledge and beliefs of nursing staff regarding various aspects of pain in elderly patients with dementia. In addition, the differences among several categories of nurses (based on educational level and work experience) with respect to beliefs about pain were investigated.

METHODS: Participants were 123 staff members of psychogeriatric wards in two nursing homes in the Netherlands (mean of 11.4 years of experience). Their results were compared with those of two groups of nurses, one consisting of 25 registered nurse PhD students in nursing science and the other consisting of 20 trainee pain nurse specialists.

RESULTS: The main findings indicate that nursing home staff respondents showed knowledge deficits about several aspects of pain, even though they were satisfied about the way pain was assessed and treated at their wards. Specific knowledge deficits were found regarding pain treatment and medication in elderly nursing home residents. Staff educational level seemed to influence their beliefs and knowledge about pain in elderly nursing home patients.