Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching & Learning


Despite scientific advances in pain management, inadequate pain relief in hospitalized patients continues to be an on-going phenomenon. Although nurses do not prescribe medication for pain, the decision to administer pharmacological or other interventions for pain relief is part of nursing practice. Nurses play a critical role in the relief of patients' pain.

Some authors have argued that nurses are not well prepared in pain management because of deficiencies in nursing curricula. Over the past ten years, however a significant amount of information about pain management including assessment and intervention for relief has been incorporated into basic programs of study in nursing. Studies have described how clinical environments can induce feelings of reduced self-efficacy and low personal control leading nurses to act in ways which are contrary to their knowledge but are congruent with practices prevalent in the clinical environment.

The purpose of the study was to investigate and to compare the knowledge and attitudes of senior nursing students and practicing registered nurses regarding pain management. This descriptive study utilized a convenience sample of registered nurses (n=121) and senior nursing students (n=100) who completed knowledge and attitude tools and a demographic data form. The study was conducted in two private universities and two teaching hospitals in the Midwest.

The scores indicate poor performance by both groups, however the practicing nurses' mean score of 74.0% while not reaching the expected 80% level was higher than the student nurses' mean score of 69.5%. On the attitude measurement tool the practicing nurses' mean scores in each category were not significantly different from the student nurses mean scores.

Results indicated no evidence of association between education level or age with the knowledge and attitudes of practicing nurses regarding pain management. Experience was not shown to affect attitudes; however there was a slight positive relationship between years of experience and knowledge regarding pain management. The practicing nurse had statistically significant greater knowledge about pain management than did the senior nursing student; nevertheless, there was no significant difference in attitude toward pain management between the two groups.

Findings of this study indicate the nursing profession has work to do to fulfill its promise to society to provide safe compassionate care. A structured approach to improving the quality of pain management is required. Education, affective and cognitive, is an essential part of this approach.

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