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The Verbal Numeric Pain Scale: Effects of Patient Education on Self-reports of Pain
Academic Emergency Medicine
  • Catherine A. Marco, Wright State University
  • Alan P. Marco, Wright State University
  • Michael C. Plewa
  • Nancy Buderer
  • Jameson Bowles
  • Jennifer Lee
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Background: Emergency department (ED) patients are frequently asked to provide a self-report of the level of pain experienced using a verbal numeric rating scale. Objectives: To determine the effects of patient education regarding the verbal numeric rating scale on self-reports of pain among ED patients. Methods: In this prospective, interventional study, 310 eligible ED patients with pain, aged 18 years and older, were randomized to view either a novel educational video (n= 155) or a novel print brochure (n= 155) as an educational intervention, both developed to deliver educational information about the verbal numeric pain scale and its use. Participants initially rated their pain on a scale from 0 to 10 and then were administered the educational intervention. Following the educational intervention, participants completed a survey that included demographic information, postinterventional pain score, prior pain experience, and subjective rating of the helpfulness of the educational intervention. Fifty-five consecutive participants were enrolled as controls and received no educational intervention but gave a self-reported triage pain score and a second pain score at an equivalent time interval. Clinical significance was defined as a decrease in pain of 2 or more points following the education. Results: Following the educational interventions, there were statistically significant, although not clinically significant, decreases in mean pain scores within each intervention group (video: mean change, 1 point [95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.7 to 1.2]; printed brochure: mean change, 0.6 points [95% CI = 0.4 to 0.8]). For participants in the control group (no intervention), there was no significant change (mean change, 0.2 points [95% CI =−0.2 to 0.5]). A clinically significant decrease in pain was seen in 28% of the video group, 23% of the brochure group, and 5% of controls. Most patients had no change (71% of the video group, 73% of the brochure group, and 89% of controls). Participants rated the helpfulness of the video educational intervention as 7.1 (95% CI = 6.7 to 7.5) and the print educational intervention as 6.7 (95% CI = 6.2 to 7.1) on a scale from 0 (least effective) to 10 (most helpful). Conclusions: Among ED participants with pain, both educational interventions (video and printed brochure) resulted in statistically and clinically significant decreased self-reported pain scores by 2 or more points in 26% of participants compared with 5% of controls. The educational interventions were rated as helpful by participants, with no appreciable difference between the two intervention groups.
Citation Information
Catherine A. Marco, Alan P. Marco, Michael C. Plewa, Nancy Buderer, et al.. "The Verbal Numeric Pain Scale: Effects of Patient Education on Self-reports of Pain" Academic Emergency Medicine Vol. 13 Iss. 8 (2006) p. 853 - 859 ISSN: 10696563
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