With the emergency of pain management as a medical specialty, a registered nurse (RN) interested in a career shift might want to consider becoming a chronic pain nurse. An RN with the appropriate education, experience, and traits to manage pain needs to become a nurse practitioner (NP) to enter this specialty.
Overview of Chronic Pain Nursing
Chronic pain nurse are NPs who have completed additional training beyond licensure as an RN, according to the University of Mary. Since licensing and practice requirements vary by state, NPs experience a variation in the amount of independence allowed as far as being in private practice. Some are restricted to working in a hospital or other setting under the supervision of a medical doctor. Most chronic pain NPs are permitted to both prescribe and administer pain medication.
Chronic pain nursing involves more than dealing with medication. These nurses perform detailed patient health assessments and help with referrals. They coordinate with other practitioners to develop a plan to address pain and often facilitate research to help improve its management.
The focus of chronic pain nursing is necessarily on preventing pain rather than curing disease. Many nurses are involved in palliative care and work with patients on a daily basis. They teach patients and their families about the drug therapy prescribed and how to get the maximum benefit from it.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) reports that there are around 155,000 NPs in the United States. About 93 percent of them have graduate degrees. They have prescribing privileges in all 50 states and privileges for controlled substances in 48.
Skills Chronic Pain Nurses Need For Education and Experience
Candidates interested in chronic pain nursing should first complete an educational program that makes them eligible to be an RN. Since these chronic pain nurses are NPs, prospective students should select an accredited program that awards a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN), the University of Mary advises this.
After graduating, the next step is passing the National Council Licensure Exam, the NCLEX-RN, in order to begin a career as an RN. Becoming an RN is the passport to quality for the continuing education necessary to become a chronic pain NP.
RNs should complete at least two years of practical nursing experience before attempting to enter the field of pain management. Assignments in critical care units and emergency rooms give them the skills necessary to become a chronic pain nurse.
The next step is becoming a NP, also known as an advanced practice nurse. Most nurses at this stage have also completed a Master of Science in nursing (MSN) degree. Some have earned advanced certifications in pain management. Although state licensing requirements vary, NPs should be sure to register with the Drug Enforcement Administration to be allowed to prescribe medication.
Many NPs working in chronic pain management have two specialties. An example is a chronic pain NP working exclusively with oncology patients.
Chronic pain nursing requires the ability to talk to patients and their families effectively. The nurse should be skillful at helping them understand medical conditions and ways to treat them. Since treatment often requires more than medication, nurses must be able to convey information on diet, relaxation, breathing techniques and psychological methods of managing pain.
Chronic pain nurses also perform traditional nursing services. This means they must have the capability to reach, lift, push, carry and pull.
According to the University of Phoenix, since most chronic pain nurses deal with patients in very stressful situations, they must be able to handle the emotional demands of this work.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted a 26 percent jump in employment of RNs between 2010 and 2020. Chronic pain nurses can expect a similar increased demand for their services, largely due to the aging of the baby boomer population and the need for advanced nursing care, says the University of Mary.
Compensation for these specialized nurses varies according to employer, job location, experience and benefits. Nurses in private practice must pay for malpractice insurance. Employers generally offer chronic pain nurses comprehensive benefits packages. The AANP indicates that in 2011, the mean full-time salary of an NP was $91,310. Average full-time total income for these practitioners was $98,760.