The consequences of pain…
A young mother is terrified helplessly watching her child spiral toward death in anaphylactic shock, because she did not know that an allergy to aspirin could also mean an allergy to ibuprofen.
An elderly man is no longer breathing, because he mistakenly thought he could break his pill in half to save money; when in fact, this caused the immediate release of a lethal dose from his time-release pill. He will die before the ambulance can arrive but could have been saved by a simple subcutaneous injection.
A business executive is transfused her tenth unit of whole blood, but it will not save her from dying from the hemorrhaging ulcer caused by excessive over-the-counter pain medications.
A young football star slumps silently in a corner at his high school friend’s party. Pills acquired from various unlocked medicine cabinets are coursing through his arteries. In three days his grieving parents will be struggling with the decision to remove him from life support.
With alarming frequency, stories like these touch every family.
All are preventable.
The consequences of pain…
More costly than cancer.
More deadly than car crashes.
More likely than a heart attack.
More common than the common cold.
With pain being so ubiquitous, so serious, so PAINFUL, why do we still not know how best to deal with the pain epidemic?
Perhaps, it is precisely because we don’t know?
Then, we should learn.
We should become knowledgeable, skilled, competent, and even certified.
By “we” I mean everyone – not only health care providers. Pain and pain’s consequences touch every life. We all have a stake.
Lifeguards, plumbers, electricians, firemen, police, pilots, engineers, lawyers, nurses, pharmacists, physicians, etc., etc., etc., must earn certifications. Similarly, by the millions, people of all ages achieve certification in Basic Life Support – and we regularly hear stories of how a bystander stepped in to save a life. A standardized and universal understanding of pain, its treatments, complications, emergencies, and prevention could have similar results.
This point is bolstered by a recent letter from the American Society of Addiction Medicine calling upon the White House to:
…focus holistically on provider and community education, overdose death prevention and increased access to treatment, in order to effectively manage the (opioid) epidemic.
Knowledge is power.
It is time we, as a community, put that power to work.
The roadmap is clear. Like the American Heart Association’s Basic Life Support certification, Basic Pain Care (BPC) can be taught in a standardized algorithmic manner. Learning can be didactic and hands-on. For most, it would only take a few hours to master the skills, earn the certification, and acquire the confidence.
A Basic Pain Care curriculum might include:
– Wellness and prevention (diet, exercise, stress)
– Acute care (ice, heat, etc.)
– Over the counter medications
– Prescription medications
– Alternative and complementary treatments
– Drug abuse prevention, recognition, and treatment
– Pitfalls and risks
– Emergency procedures (overdose, seizure, etc.)
Imagine how confident you would feel if you knew the best and safest way to treat pain, regardless of the situation – acute, chronic, traumatic, post-operatively, and palliative. Imagine that everyone knew.
Imagine the suffering that would be eased.
Imagine the resources that would be spared.
Imagine the lives that would be saved.
Imagine the tears that would never be shed.
Now make it real. Join with me in establishing the Basic Pain Care Certification. We can start by getting connected. Share this article. Offer your comments. Follow my Confluential Truth blog and the Twitter account @jamespmurphymd. Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Change the consequences of pain.
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