A recent study published by the Connell School of Nursing, Boston College, has revealed that patient satisfaction with pain management is correlated with nurse staffing. This is an important finding, in light of the recent understaffing issue faced by several healthcare systems, which may impact the overall patient perception of the care they receive.

Addressing nursing shortage to improve patient satisfaction

The research study, published in Pain Management Nursing journal, revealed that when there’s a sufficient level of nurse staffing, patients were less inclined to report dissatisfaction with the pain they experienced. The research team lead, Judith Shindul-Rothschild, also an associate professor at the Connell School of Nursing, asserts that “the findings highlight the need for adequate numbers of nursing staff to achieve optimal patient satisfaction with pain management. In addition, having a prescriber (physician or nurse practitioner) available 24/7 to offer continuity of care is essential.”

The key aim of the study was to discover how characteristics of the hospital and staffing could affect patient satisfaction. Results were sourced from three states in the US – New York, Massachusetts and California. Pain management ratings and patient satisfaction were collected via national patient surveys.

The results across all three states highlighted a similarity – patients reported greater satisfaction with pain when a larger number of registered nurses were present. Patient satisfaction with pain was also improved with a greater number of nursing staff. However, this was proven to a lesser extent.

Several reasons identified for poorer patient satisfaction

In the study, contributing researchers have identified four primary reasons which explained why patients reported poorer satisfaction with pain when fewer nurses were present:

     • Patients did not receive help promptly

     • Ineffective communication

     • Poor medication education

     • Receiving care in a teaching hospital

Pain management is a crucial component of hospital care, which if compromised, could severely impact patients’ perception of healthcare. “We need to think very critically of how we are managing pain, how we are communicating with patients, and how members of treatment teams are communicating with each other,” emphasises Shindul-Rothschild.

Eliminating communicating barriers within a healthcare team

The study also zooms into the need for healthcare professionals – in a care team – to communicate effectively with each other. Nurses are responsible for the daily monitoring of patients, which further explains why the inadequacy of nurse staffing can result in patients feeling dissatisfied, and perceiving greater pain. Authors contributing to the study also comment that, “nurse staffing and nurse-patient communication are highly predictive of patients’ perception of pain management.”

Addressing shortages of qualified nurses in hospitals may resolve patient issues with pain – and, ultimately improve clinical outcomes for patients. If patients feel satisfied with the management of their pain, they are more likely to seek healthcare in the future. MIMS

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