February 2, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 5


Of Note

Media Report


Schools join hands to teach pain management

Pain is a common health complaint and crosses all disciplines. With this in mind, a group of faculty from nine different clinical departments has offered an elective on the subject since 1995.

Once again this semester, students from nursing, medicine, dentistry and physical therapy are learning about pain, as well as about working with professionals from other disciplines, in the course "Team Approach to Pain Management." Faculty rotate as course directors and this semester's director is Dr. Mary Heye, acute nursing care.

"Despite the fact that the course is an elective that cuts across several disciplines and there is no one source for budget support, we feel that the course has been very successful," Dr. Heye said. "Student response to past courses has been very gratifying. Most of the faculty donate time to this effort. This semester, faculty include Drs. Lynda Wells, anesthesiology, Nancy Hudepohl, educational resources; John King, rehabilitation medicine; Kenneth Woods, orthodontics; Clayton Gable, physical therapy; Scott Soefje, clinical pharmacy; and Hasi Venkatachalam, medicine."

Student evaluations seem very positive concerning the impact of the course. "The small-group format was extremely helpful," said a medical student. A physical therapy student reported, "I learned about the importance of treating the whole person and not just a diagnosis or a list of diagnoses." An occupational therapy student noted, "My attitude (toward pain management) has changed. I think this is one of the most important ways in which health care personnel can help their patients."

The course focuses on acute and chronic pain as well as pain caused by cancer. Students study actual cases and learn an interdisciplinary team perspective, and how to consider the classification, characteristics and assessment of pain, and the interventions for pain control ranging from pharmacologic and invasive to cognitive and physical. Faculty and students represent acute nursing care, occupational therapy, instructional development, rehabilitation medicine, anesthesiology, orthodontics, physical therapy, occupational therapy, clinical pharmacy, medicine and orthodontics.

The course is offered each week on the main campus with videoconferencing to the Allied Health/Research and McDermott buildings. One portion of the problem-based format has students post answers to questions on the U.T. TeleCampus WebBoard. Questions are designed for each student's discipline and students are able to "chat" with each other and with faculty through the WebBoard.