Pain Education in Medical Schools Needs Improvement


Newswise — GLENVIEW, Ill., Dec. 22, 2011 -- Even though pain is by far the leading reason people seek medical care, pain education at North American medical schools is limited, variable and often fragmentary, according to a Johns Hopkins University study published in The Journal of Pain.

The study examined the curricula at 117 medical schools in the United States and Canada and went beyond a simple analysis of historical presence-or-absence criteria in assessing pain education for medical students. This measurement does not distinguish the number of classroom hours devoted to pain education or coverage of various pain topics.

The authors performed a systematic review analyzing curricular emphasis on topics such as pediatric and geriatric pain, neuropathic pain, cancer pain, pain neurobiology and pharmacological pain management.

Results showed that a majority of medical schools are teaching one or more core topics in pain, but many schools are not reporting any pain teaching and most others devote less than five hours to pain education. Further, the authors found that cancer pain, pediatric pain and geriatric pain are essentially unaddressed by the vast majority of medical schools.

They concluded: “Taken as a whole, these data bring to light glaring discrepancies between the prevalence of pain in society and the time dedicated to educating future physicians about pain in medical school. Given that the twin dangers of pain under-treatment and the abuse of pain-active medications are among our society’s deepest health concerns, pain medicine does not receive the attention that it deserves in medical education.”

About the American Pain Society Based in Glenview, Ill., the American Pain Society (APS) is a multidisciplinary community that brings together a diverse group of scientists, clinicians and other professionals to increase the knowledge of pain and transform public policy and clinical practice to reduce pain-related suffering. APS was founded in 1978 with 510 charter members. From the outset, the group was conceived as a multidisciplinary organization. The Board of Directors includes physicians, nurses, psychologists, basic scientists, pharmacists, policy analysts and others. For more information on APS, visit www.ampainsoc.org.

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