We’ve all been there: We’ve gotten injured or sick and needed the relief of pain management. Whether you’ve suffered from back pain, a migraine or something more severe like cancer pain, you know the power of relief.
But pain management is no easy subject. It requires a significant amount of attention and thought, not to mention knowledge, on behalf of the medical professionals who provide it.
If you’re thinking about going into a career in nursing for pain management, you’ll be putting in a lot of work, but the payout is huge: helping patients lead fuller, more comfortable lives despite the conditions from which they suffer.
Are you ready to learn what’s involved in becoming a pain management nurse? Read on to find out what kind of work this role entails and how to become the kind of professional that does it. Below, you’ll find all the pain management nurse requirements, from certifications to education, and what it takes to succeed in this role.
What is a pain management nurse?
The name of this role gives us some good insight, but let us go deeper. Pain management nurses work with patients suffering from chronic or acute pain. They are part of a team that creates a care plan for these patients, and they help carry out these plans and administer pain medications. They also act as liaisons between patients and physicians.
What does a pain management nurse do?
We’d like to break up what a pain management nurse does into two categories: how they physically support patients through medical interventions and how they use their empathy to help patients emotionally. Here are some of those key responsibilities.
- Assess: Determine the level of a patient’s pain through a pain assessment
- Treat: Make an intervention and pain treatment plan together with physicians
- Inform: Educate patients and their support systems on treating pain and watching out for side effects and complications
- Advocate: Communicate patients’ needs to physicians to make changes to their pain management plan
- Patience: People in your care are in a moment of acute suffering, so patience and kindness are a must
- Compassion: You are there to provide empathy for patients with grave conditions
Why are pain management nurses important?
No one wants to be in pain, but people going through a healthcare crisis or suffering from a long-term condition often have no choice. Pain management nurses are essential to controlling this pain and helping patients feel more comfortable. This improves their quality of life, which can mean better mood or sleep and a generally better outlook.
Where do pain management nurses work?
Pain management nurses can find work in many environments, including:
- Rehabilitation centers
- Nursing care facilities
- Fitness centers
How to become a pain management nurse
To become a pain management nurse, you’ll first need to get your Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). If you have the time and dedication, we recommend the latter because it’s a better base for earning other types of specializations later on in your career (should you choose to do so). Sure, it’s more of an investment, seeing as ADNs only take about 2 years to complete while BSNs can take up to 4, but we think it’s worth it.
Then you’ll need to sit for an exam: the NCLEX-RN. You’ll become a certified registered nurse when you pass it (and we know you will, with flying colors!). This certification path is the jumping-off point for almost all nursing specializations, so getting your BSN and certification as a registered nurse (RN) are great first steps, even if you are unsure where you’d like to take your career after the fact.
To specialize in managing pain, you will need to get your Pain Management Nurse Certification by sitting for the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) exam. You’ll also need to meet other basic eligibility requirements, like keeping your registered nurse license active and showing at least two years of work as an RN. You also must prove you’ve worked at least 2,000 hours in a pain-management-related career in the three years preceding the exam.
What is the career outlook for a pain management nurse?
Pain management nurses are in high demand (and the need for nurses is on the rise in general). It may seem sobering or sad, but the fact is pain is part of our existence as human beings, and almost all of us (if not all of us) will require some kind of pain control at some point in our lives (and there’s no shame in admitting it). We all need to be taken care of sometimes, and that’s where nurses come in. In other words, it’s unlikely there will ever be a shortage of work.
There’s another factor to consider for pain management careers. Nowadays, people are living longer, and we’re seeing a jump in chronic pain conditions. Wherever there’s a chronic illness, there’s a need for pain management and palliative care. Because older adults need this type of care, you’ll find jobs in private homes, hospices, and nursing homes.
Now, it’s time for the million-dollar question (figuratively speaking). How much do pain management nurses make? In the United States, the average annual pain management nurse salary is currently $101,000.
Wherever your career takes you as a healthcare professional—be it a career in pain management nursing or another specialty—we’re here for you. That goes for keeping you looking and feeling great with luxury scrubs, great face masks and other accessories, and all the moral support you need.