Ineffective Pain Management in the Emergency Department

Document Type


Publication Date



pain management, emergency department, opioid, medicine


Starting in the early 2000s, pain was accepted as the fifth vital sign when it came to patient satisfaction surveys. At the time, opioids were among the most effective treatment for acute somatic pain. By nature, emergency departments lack the time needed to holistically manage their patients’ pain. As such, emergency department providers increasingly turned to opioids as a pain management tool to increase their patients’ satisfaction. However, the continual use of opioids for chronic pain management eventually led to the reduction of its effectiveness which in turn, led to dosage escalation. This carried with it the risk of addiction. It was estimated that opioid prescription misuse costed the United States $78.5 billion in 2013.

In response to the situation, the American Academy of Emergency Medicine published a guideline for pain management which is widely used. However, emergency departments do not have appropriate tools to effectively and consistently differentiate between those who need opioids as an emergency pain management tool and those who seek opioids due to their addiction. Ongoing education with emergency department staff as well as educating patients of the effects of opioid usage will be most effective in combating inappropriate opioid prescription and their abuse. In addition, studies suggest a multidisciplinary team may help effectively treat chronic pain and reduce the need for opioid prescriptions.

First Advisor

Jewel Shepherd

Research Area

Master of Business Administration

This document is currently not available here.