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Managing pain 2019

Multi-disciplinary pain management is essential for managing patients with pain


Brona Fullen

President Elect of the European Pain Federation (EFIC)

Pain management is changing and more needs to be done to support the multi-disciplinary teams who are on the front line.   

Brona Fullen is the first female in her role, and the first chartered physiotherapist. She is the new President Elect of the European Pain Federation (EFIC) and her appointment sends an unambiguous message that EFIC is an inclusive, multidisciplinary and progressive organisation. 

A multi-disciplinary approach to pain management doesn’t simply involve giving patients access to a wider variety of medical and allied health professionals. Those professionals are also working closely together to assess patient in light of their individual physical, psychological and social needs and developing a co-ordinated treatment plan. 

Assess the whole patient, not just the symptoms

“Patient care has moved from a biomedical to a biopsychosocial model,” says Fullen. “Now, we recognise the impact that pain has on the whole person, so we must assess their problem from a holistic perspective and educate the patient about their condition so that they can become actively involved in the management of their condition. “For this to happen,” Fullen says, “we must talk to patients using language they understand (health literacy) so that they can follow our recommendations, whether it’s around taking medication or following an exercise programme to maximise their health.” 

Evidence-based care

Continued, pan-European collaboration between the disciplines will ensure improved pain prevention, diagnosis and treatment models of care through both high-quality research and education initiatives. 

Preparing the next generation in healthcare

“At EFIC,” Fullen points out, “we realise that we are preparing the next generation of pain healthcare workers and researchers. “It’s not simply about learning within the four walls of a classroom or congress – it’s about contributing to organisational and institutional changes in health services across Europe. 

“They are going to inherit the problem of pain, which is a major healthcare issue with our ageing population, and we have an opportunity to shape it through our education programmes and research initiatives.”

Moving care into the community

While specialist pain management is delivered in specialist pain centres in hospitals, in many health services, pain management rehabilitation services are now being delivered away from hospitals in primary care and even community settings – a trend that Fullen believes will continue. As part of this shift, Fullen acknowledges that more, “patients are being empowered with the knowledge to help support themselves.”

As models of care continue to evolve to include more technological and e-health services, the role of healthcare professionals will continue to change even further. Fullen is keen to ensure they are well-prepared for the developments ahead.  

Within her role as President of the European Pain Federation, she wants to focus on resourcing multidisciplinary, grass-roots members with the expertise and resources they need to deliver the very best in pain management. “We have a broad range of educational initiatives to help our members, including EFIC’s bi-annual Congress, our Pain Schools, our Education platform and our Diplomas in Pain Medicine or Physiotherapy.” 

The reality is that pain management will always have to jostle for prominence among the more emotive healthcare issues, but with BMJ Open reporting that 43% of the population suffer with chronic pain, this silent epidemic needs to be taken seriously.

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