Pain Management When Nurses Are the Patient

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Pain Management for NursesAs a nurse, you’re responsible for addressing the pain your patients feel. But what about when you’re the one in pain?

Nursing is tough, and workplace injuries are common. So are ongoing problems, like sore muscles, strains and sprains from the myriad physically taxing tasks nurses perform daily. If you’re affected by injury or an ongoing condition, pain can impair your ability to do your job well. But so can painkillers, so it’s important to know your options and the rules around taking pain medication at work.

Managing injury and chronic pain

Common injuries include back problems, often from moving patients; cuts and infection from sharp objects; and burns. If one of these occurs, take care of yourself in the same way you would one of your patients. Access time off or disability programs to make sure you have the healing and rest you need.

Then consider your options:

  • Can you go back to work right away?
  • Will you need medication or regular treatment of some sort?
  • Will your work need to change or be restricted?

If you return to work while using pain medication, make sure you’re compliant with all workplace policies and have the proper documentation from your physician that you’re fit to work.

What to know if you must take medication

Know that addiction to prescribed and nonprescribed medication is a significant problem. Not only does it result in employment problems — including potential loss of licensure — for nurses, it can have adverse and even fatal consequences for the very patients they are responsible for caring for.

But you should also know that taking medication doesn’t automatically equate to being impaired on the job. Rules and oversight of nurses who take painkillers can vary from state to state. So to be sure, contact your state’s board of nursing to make sure you’re completely informed.

Deal with small aches to avoid big pains

Try to avoid problems before they occur, too. You’ve heard the clichés about wearing good, supportive shoes. You should also pay attention to your posture, and stretch before, during, and after your shifts if you can. Pay attention to areas that are used in frequent, repetitive motions, like your hands and wrists, by giving yourself mini-massages and stretching time to ease the strain.

It may seem obvious, but taking care of yourself off the clock can make a big difference in how you feel while working.

  • Attend carefully to those little aches and pains so they don’t get bigger — take warm baths, for example, or take the time to buy a back brace that will help you deal with lifting patients.
  • Consider visiting an athletic shoe store to have your gait and foot type analyzed, so you can buy a shoe that’s meant for your body specifically, in turn reducing back, hip, foot and leg aches.
  • And of course, make sure you’re getting the rest you need.
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