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Pain Research and Management
Volume 18, Issue 5, Pages 259-265
Original Article

Improving Undergraduate Medical Education about Pain Assessment and Management: A Qualitative Descriptive Study of Stakeholders’ Perceptions

Pierre-Paul Tellier,1 Emmanuelle Bélanger,2 Charo Rodríguez,1 Mark A Ware,1,3 and Nancy Posel1

1Department of Family Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
2Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit, Department of Anesthesiology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Copyright © 2013 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: Pain is one of the most common reasons for individuals to seek medical advice, yet it remains poorly managed. One of the main reasons that poor pain management persists is the lack of adequate knowledge and skills of practicing clinicians, which stems from a perceived lack of pain education during the training of undergraduate medical students.

OBJECTIVE: To identify gaps in knowledge with respect to pain management as perceived by students, patients and educators.

METHODS: A qualitative descriptive study was conducted. Data were generated through six focus groups with second- and fourth-year medical students, four focus groups with patients and individual semistructured interviews with nine educators. All interviews were audiotaped and an inductive thematic analysis was performed.

RESULTS: A total of 70 individuals participated in the present study. Five main themes were identified: assessment of physical and psychosocial aspects of pain; clinical management of pain with pharmacology and alternative therapies; communication and the development of a good therapeutic relationship; ethical considerations surrounding pain; and institutional context of medical education about pain.

CONCLUSION: Participating patients, students and pain experts recognized a need for additional medical education about pain assessment and management. Educational approaches need to teach students to gather appropriate information about pain, to acquire knowledge of a broad spectrum of therapeutic options, to develop a mutual, trusting relationship with patients and to become aware of their own biases and prejudice toward patients with pain. The results of the present study should be used to develop and enhance existing pain curricula content.