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Under-treatment of children’s pain in the emergency department (ED) can have many detrimental effects. Emergency medicine (EM) residents often manage pediatric pain, but their educational needs and perspectives have not been studied.
A novel online survey was administered from May to June 2013 to 122 EM residents at three Canadian universities using a modified Dillman methodology. The survey instrument captured information on training received in pediatric acute pain management, approach to common painful presentations, level of comfort, perceived facilitators, and barriers and attitudes towards pediatric pain.
56 residents participated (46%), 25 of whom (45%) indicated they had not received any training in pediatric pain assessment. All levels of residents reported they were uncomfortable with pain assessment in 0-2 year olds (p=0.07); level of comfort with assessment increased with years of training for patients aged 2-12 years (p=0.02). When assessing children with disabilities, 83% of respondents (45/54) indicated they were ‘extremely’ or ‘somewhat’ uncomfortable. Sixty-nine percent (38/55) had received training on how to treat pediatric pain. All residents reported they were more comfortable using pain medication for a 9 year old, as compared to a 1 year old (oral oxycodone p<0.001, oral morphine p<0.001, IV morphine p=0.004). The preferred methods to learn about children’s pain management were role-modeling (61%) and lectures (57%). The top challenges in pain management were with non-verbal, younger, or developmentally delayed patients.
Canadian EM residents report receiving inadequate training in pediatric pain management, and are particularly uneasy with younger or developmentally disabled children. Post-graduate curricula should be adjusted to correct these self-identified weaknesses in children’s pain management.