A pain management nurse is part of a healthcare team tasked with providing care to patients who suffer from chronic or debilitating pain. Relieving pain has become a public health challenge in the United States. More than 50 million people currently live with chronic pain that affects their daily living, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among the conditions that can trigger it include arthritis, cancer, fibromyalgia, Lyme’s disease, and nerve damage.
In this article, we will explore:
- What is a pain management nurse?
- What does a pain management nurse do?
- What are the education requirements for a pain management nurse?
- What is the job & salary outlook for pain management nurses?
What is a pain management nurse?
Pain management nurses are Registered Nurses (RNs) who pursue specialty certification in pain management. They care for patients living with acute or chronic pain as part of their healthcare team. Whether recovering from a traumatic injury or learning to cope with a debilitating disease or illness, patients rely on the empathy and expertise of pain management nurses to provide relief.
To succeed in this nursing specialty, candidates must possess top-notch assessment skills that include interpreting non-verbal cues. These specialized RNs can work in healthcare settings like hospitals, pain management clinics, private physician offices, and trauma centers.
What does a pain management nurse do?
People living with chronic pain must balance relief with risk. Pain management RNs assess patients to determine their level of discomfort, then decide which medication, or alternative form of pain management, is most appropriate. A central focus of the job is educating patients about coping strategies to help prevent addiction to narcotics or other pain medications.
To combat the growing number of patients living with constant suffering, the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) established standards for healthcare providers that address pain assessment and management. Within 10 years, 2 million people had developed substance use disorders involving prescription pain medications. The opioid epidemic forces healthcare providers to find alternative pain management techniques that are safer for their patients. Suggestions can include:
- MassageTranscutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS) units
Most pain management nurses cannot prescribe medications directly. Only Nurse Practitioners (NPs) have that privilege.
What are the education requirements for pain management nurses?
Step 1: Education
Attend an accredited nursing school to earn either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). An ADN will take between 18 and 24 months to complete, while you can expect to spend roughly four years to earn a BSN. If you already have an ADN, there is an ADN to BSN bridge program that allows you to earn a BSN in 12-18 months. There is also an RN to BSN bridge which takes three semesters of nursing courses to be completed in one year. These programs will save you time and money. The more education you have, the better your chances of landing your dream job.
Step 2: Examination
When you are six weeks away from graduation, you can apply to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. There are 75 to 265 questions on the NCLEX-RN with a five-hour time limit for completion. If you do not pass the NCLEX-RN on your first attempt, you must wait 45 days before you can try again.
The NCLEX includes questions on the following topics to test nursing candidates’ knowledge:
1. Safe and effective care environment
2. Health promotion and maintenance
3. Psychosocial integrity
4. Physiological integrity
Step 3: Experience
This step in the process is to gain hands-on experience. This will provide you with invaluable opportunities to work with patients making you attractive to future employers.
Step 4: Certification
To be considered for employment in this nursing specialty, RNs must obtain the Registered Nurse Board Certified Credential in Pain Management (RN-BC) from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). A competency-based exam, the credential verifies entry-level clinical knowledge and skills needed for RNs working in pain management.
To be eligible to sit for the credentialing exam, nurses must:
- Hold a current RN license or legally recognized equivalent
- Complete 30 hours of continuing education in pain management nursing within the most recent three years
- Accrue 2,000 hours of clinical practice in pain management nursing within the last three years
- Practice the equivalent of two years as a full-time RN
The RN-BC credential is valid for five years. Renewal requirements include seven professional development categories that provide evidence that credentialed nurses remain competent in their specialization.
What is the job & salary outlook for pain management nurses?
According to the professional salary tracking website Salary.com, pain management nurses make an average hourly wage of $48 per hour or $96,000 per year. National averages for this nursing specialty fluctuate between $45 and $52 and can be even higher in some locations where the field is in demand. Job demand is difficult to gauge since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically track pain management nursing careers. The BLS outlook for RNs projects a 9 percent growth between now and 2030.
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