How to Become a Pain Management Nurse

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Written by Ann Real, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A pain management nurse explains a care plan to their patient.

A pain management nurse is a healthcare professional who specializes in helping patients minimize their pain and discomfort. These nurses develop and implement personalized pain management plans that can include medications and/or non-pharmacological interventions such as relaxation techniques or physical therapy.

With one in five adults suffering from pain and one in 10 diagnosed with chronic pain every year, your expertise in this field is sure to make a difference. If pain management nursing is calling your name, this article is your roadmap to joining this impactful specialty.

Career summary graphic, showing the role, duties, workplaces, path, and timeline of a pain management nurse..

What Is Pain Management Nursing?

Pain management nursing is centered around developing safe and effective pain management plans. These nurses work closely with patients, physicians, and other members of the healthcare team, advocating for optimal pain relief while minimizing risks and side effects, such as opioid misuse.

Curious about the patients you could work with? Pain management nurses typically work with patients suffering from a variety of conditions, including:

  • Chronic pain conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and neuropathies.
  • Post-surgical pain during recovery.
  • Cancer-related pain from treatment or disease progression.
  • Traumatic injuries resulting from accidents or falls.
  • Neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries.
  • Degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease.
  • Headaches and migraines.
  • Sports injuries.
  • Pain exacerbated by mental health conditions like depression or anxiety.

What Does a Pain Management Nurse Do?

Besides performing usual nursing tasks like head-to-toe assessments and medication administration, these nurses employ a range of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions.

Pharmacologic pain management nursing interventions:

  • Assisting with nerve blocks or spinal injections
  • Administering Botox injections
  • Educating patients about patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pumps
  • Administering local anesthetics for procedures like wound care or minor surgeries
  • Providing vitamin therapy
  • Performing trigger point injections

Nonpharmacologic pain management nursing interventions:

  • Utilizing acupuncture
  • Implementing biofeedback
  • Applying transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Scheduling chiropractic and physical therapy sessions
  • Implementing relaxation techniques, such as yoga and guided imagery
  • Employing positioning
  • Applying desensitization techniques

Where Do They Work?

Pain management nurses can work in different healthcare settings. Some common places include:

How to Become a Pain Management Nurse

Let’s explore the key steps to start your journey into this unique nursing specialty.

1. Get a Nursing Degree

You’ll start by completing prerequisites to get enrolled in either an associate or bachelor’s degree program. In school, you’ll take classes on pathophysiology, pharmacology, health assessment, and other relevant subjects, and gain hands-on experience through clinical rotations at healthcare facilities.

2. Obtain Licensure

Next, you’ll take the national certification exam for registered nurses — the NCLEX-RN. This exam assesses your preparedness to practice nursing safely. If you pass, you’ll become a licensed registered nurse (RN). If you fail the first time, you’ll need to retake the NCLEX.

3. Gain Experience

Before stepping into pain management nursing, consider getting experience in specialties that can equip you with a broad range of essential nursing skills, such as:

4. Attain Pain Management Certification (Optional)

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers certification that can boost your application and help you earn a pay raise. This certification shows that you are not just a great nurse — you’re also a great pain management nurse who met all the necessary requirements to earn an ANCC pain management certification.

5. Pursue Advanced Education (Optional)

Are you someone with big aspirations? You can pursue advanced education by obtaining a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree, or becoming a pain management nurse practitioner.

How Much Do Pain Management Nurses Make?

The typical pain management nurse salary in the U.S. is about $97,700 per year. You can make more or less, depending on your location, education, experience, and work setting.

Looking for ways to boost your nursing income? Consider picking up extra work on the side and learning how to manage your finances wisely. Don’t forget, you can also kickstart your own nursing business.

Frequently Asked Questions: Pain Management Nursing

Why is pain management important in nursing?

Addressing pain is a cornerstone of compassionate healthcare, ensuring individuals receive the support and relief they need. The benefits of effective pain management extend to different aspects of well-being, such as:

  • Improved quality of life
  • Faster recovery
  • Increased mobility
  • Better mental health
  • Improved sleep
  • Decreased stress
  • Increased patient satisfaction
  • Lower risk of opioid abuse

How can I advance my career in pain management nursing?

There are numerous programs offering pain management education for nurses that cover a wide range of topics, including assessment techniques and the latest advancements in pain management research. You can also grow in your knowledge and skills by attending nursing conferences, joining professional organizations, and taking continuing education courses.

What are keys to success in the pain management nursing field?

Studies suggest that patients feel more satisfied when pain management nurses offer reassurance, respond to their needs promptly, and assure them of follow-up care. Effective communication, adequate pain relief, and tailored treatment information also contribute to higher satisfaction levels.

What are the challenges faced by nurses in pain management?

One of the major challenges in this nursing specialty is balancing patient comfort with the risk of opioid misuse or addiction. These nurses must also provide culturally congruent care that respects diverse pain management traditions. Additionally, facing patients’ pain and suffering can be emotionally taxing for healthcare providers.

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