The Reality of Pain Scoring in the Emergency Department: Findings From a Multiple Case Study Design

From the Annals of Emergency Medicine:

Study objective

Documentation of pain severity with pain scores is recommended within emergency departments (EDs) to improve consistency of assessment and management of pain. Pain scores are used in treatment guidelines and triage algorithms to determine pain management and in audit and research to evaluate pain management practices. Despite significant debate of their benefits, there has been limited evaluation of their use in practice. We use naturalistic, qualitative methods to understand how pain scores are used in practice and the mechanisms by which pain scoring may influence pain management.


We undertook a multiple case study design, using qualitative research in 3 EDs in England (the cases). Case studies incorporated 143 hours of nonparticipant observation, documentary analysis, and semistructured interviews with 36 staff and 19 patients. Data were analyzed with thematic analysis.


Analysis identified that ED staff used the pain score for 2 conflicting purposes: as an auditable tool for guiding patient management and as a tool for monitoring patient experience. This led to ED staff’s facing conflict between reporting their own judgment of what the pain score ought to be and what the patient said it was. Staff justified recording their own judgment according to concerns of accountability and appropriateness of management decisions. Staff thought that pain scoring had value in raising awareness and prompting action.


In practice, pain scoring may not accurately reflect patient experience. Using pain scoring to determine the appropriateness of triage and treatment decisions reduces its validity as a measure of patient experience. Pain scoring should not be central to audit and systems of accountability for pain management.

Economic Ripples: Hospital Closure Hurts A Town’s Ability To Attract Retirees

From KUCR:

When a rural community loses its hospital, health care becomes harder to come by in an instant. But a hospital closure also shocks a small town’s economy. It shuts down one of its largest employers. It scares off heavy industry that needs an emergency room nearby. And in one Tennessee town, a lost hospital means lost hope of attracting more retirees.