May 26, 2022

Managing patient pain

Northern Health has an Acute Pain Service to assist with patient pain management.

The service was established in 2012 in response to a move in Australian hospitals that patients have better outcomes, reduced length of hospital stay and less complications post surgery if there is a dedicated team managing their pain.

Prior to 2012, intensive care staff would assist with pain management for patients on the ward.

The service was established by Anaesthetists, Dr Moira Rush, Pain Specialist and Anaesthetist, and Dr Jason Ma. They took over the management of acute pain patients, managing patient controlled analgesia, ketamine infusions and other more complex pain management modalities for Northern Hospital Epping patients.

Nicole Gauthier, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Acute Pain Service, said the team assisted patients with all sorts of pain.

“From acute post-surgical pain, chronic pain for inpatients and even very complex primary care conditions such as trigeminal neuralgia or CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome). We also have a chronic pain service that sees patients at Broadmeadows Hospital and Bundoora Centre,” she said.

Anywhere between 10 to 20 patients per day are seen, with about five to eight new referrals each day. At times, the team is consulted when staff see them on pain rounds and ask for advice in order to manage their patient’s pain.

Referrals come mostly through the Anaesthetists for post surgical patients, but the team see many non-surgical patients with complex pain needs. Pain rounds are conducted seven days a week, with nursing, Anaesthetist and Registrar coverage Monday to Friday and Anaesthetics Registrar or HMO coverage on public holidays and weekends.

Since 2012, the service has grown to include two pain nurses, Nicole and Victoria Dale, and the addition of two more pain specialists, Akilan Velayudhan in 2018 and Sarah Donovan in 2020. The team also offer procedural analgesia support, regional nerve blocks for acute and chronic pain issues as well as offering pain interventions at Broadmeadows Hospital on the interventional pain procedure list.

“Going forward as a team, we’d like to increase the pain nurse coverage at Broadmeadows Hospital,” Nicole said.

“We would also like to move forward with a transition clinic seeing patients requiring opioid weaning after a hospital stay or prior to elective surgery. Funding has been secured for Radio Frequency Ablation equipment and we are excited to be able to offer more modalities for our patients with chronic pain.”

Featured image: Acute Pain Service team