NIH selects university to help improve pain education for health professional students
Monday, January 11, 2016

A farmer, who is  already under a doctor's care for  chronic pain, arrives at  an emergency room  with an acute injury.  The new pain is  excruciating, but treatment is complicated because the patient already suffers from his previous condition.     

How does his health care provider team manage the complexity of treating both his acute and chronic pain?       

That's the  case study  an  inter-professional  team of health care providers at the University of Iowa are  using to develop  an  interactive,  web-based pain education  course  that  will  one day  be used to train  students at  the UI and other universities.      

The UI team began its  work this fall after the  university was named one of  11   Centers for Excellence in Pain Education (CoEPE) designated by the National Institutes of Health Pain Consortium. The  centers, recognized as leaders in advancing the science and care of patients in pain,  were selected by the NIH  to  help improve pain education for undergraduate and graduate health professional students.     

According to the NIH, chronic pain affects about 100 million Americans, costing up to $635 billion in medical treatment and lost productivity and contributing to poor  quality  of life. Yet, pain treatment is not extensively taught in many health professional schools.     

"Virtually all health professionals are called upon to help patients suffering from pain," says Francis Collins, director of the NIH. "These new centers will translate current research findings about pain management to fill what have been recognized as gaps in curricula so clinicians in all fields can work with their patients to make better and safer choices about pain treatment.”     

The  CoEPE  program was developed by NIH in response to the Affordable Care Act's mandate to advance the science, research, care, and education of pain.  The  program is coordinated by the National Institute on Drug  Abuse (NIDA), one of 27 institutes and centers at NIH.     

The enduring e-learning pain modules developed by the  CoEPE  program are  expected to  advance the assessment, diagnosis, and safe treatment of pain. Emphasis on inter-professional collaboration in providing quality pain care underlies the case development and will be evaluated through testing of learning modules in inter-professional course activities. The UI has been awarded $77,871 to develop its first educational course  and is committed to creating more,  depending  on funding available from the NIDA.      

Keela Herr
Keela Herr

"We are excited about the educational resources to be developed and our role in providing tools that will be disseminated through the NIH Pain Consortium to any school interested in improving their academic attention to the topic of pain management," says  Keela  Herr, professor and associate dean for faculty in the UI College of Nursing and primary investigator  for UI's  CoEPE.  "The  UI has long been recognized as a leader in advancing the science and care of patients in pain. The prestigious CoEPE designation will create synergy of our ongoing initiatives in pain research, pain education, and improving patient care, through heightened awareness of existing initiatives and increased collaborations among health professionals and others on campus committed to high-quality pain care.”

Herr is joined by co-principal investigators Kathleen Sluka, College of Medicine–physical therapy; Dana Dailey, College of Medicine–physical therapy; and Tanya Uden-Holman, College of Public Health.   

The UI  CoEPE  case-development team includes pain experts from the nursing, medicine, physician assistant, pharmacy, public health, social work, dentistry, and psychology fields.    

The online courses developed by all of the  CoEPEs  will be available for free to all health professions, schools, and faculty through the NIH Pain Consortium web resources.       

Other schools designated as  CoEPEs in 2015  include  the University of Alabama at Birmingham; the University of California, San Francisco; Harvard University; the University of Connecticut; Johns Hopkins University; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Pittsburgh; the University of Rochester; Southern Illinois University , Edwardsville; and the University of Washington.