Practical Steps for Nurses to Reduce Prescription Opioid Diversion

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

“Opioids diverted from friends and family members who have legitimate prescriptions are a major source of abused prescription opioids.”

More than 800 lbs. of drugs have been collected in Lycoming County, PA, since drug collection boxes were placed in law enforcement agencies over a year ago, allowing residents to safely dispose of unwanted drugs. Here the drugs are separated from their containers before incineration. Photo courtesy of Karen Vibert-Kennedy / Williamsport Sun-Gazette. More than 800 lbs. of drugs have been collected in Lycoming County, PA, since collection boxes were placed in law enforcement agencies over a year ago, allowing residents to safely dispose of unwanted drugs. Here the drugs are separated from their containers before incineration. Photo courtesy of Karen Vibert-Kennedy / Williamsport Sun-Gazette.

Amid recent reports from the CDC drawing attention to a prescription painkiller and heroin overdose epidemic, last week President Obama announced an initiative to address both prescription drug and heroin abuse in the United States. In addition to a PR campaign involving sports figures and celebrities, the initiative mandates education and training for those who prescribe controlled substances and steps to improve access to treatment for drug addiction.

This epidemic can’t be blamed on a single cause, and as the CDC points out, any meaningful solution must also address such crucial issues as […]

‘Tables Turned’: When the Patient’s Family Member Is a Nurse

By Betsy Todd, MPH, RN, CIC, AJN clinical editor

Illustration by Eric Collins. All rights reserved. Illustration by Eric Collins. All rights reserved.

Nurses are not always comfortable when a patient’s family member is also a nurse. In AJN’s January Reflections essay, “The Tables Turned,” a critical care nurse describes her attempt to navigate the role change from nurse to family member when her sister is hospitalized with multiple injuries after a bike accident.

Her sister is in obvious pain, but pain management is complicated by a low blood pressure. The author asks her sister’s nurse about alternative analgesics. She writes:

“The nurse, perhaps caught off guard by my question, answered abruptly: ‘I don’t think so. We don’t do that here.’ There was a pause. ‘Don’t do what?’ I asked. ‘We don’t do IV Tylenol,’ she repeated. She did not offer an explanation, an alternative, or say she’d ask another provider… I felt helpless, both as a critical care nurse and as a sister.”

As if to reinforce that the patient’s sister is not welcome to participate in care discussions, the charge nurse soon comes by and suggests that the author “step out to get some rest.”

Of course we don’t know the nurse’s side of the story; perhaps she had already […]

Codeine Overused in Children: Alternatives Exist for Hard-to-Manage Pain

By Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

According to a story at MedlinePlus, a study in Pediatrics has found that codeine is still prescribed too often to children during ER visits, though it’s known that a small but significant subset of children metabolize the painkiller far more rapidly than do other children, leading to potentially dangerous results. As AJN‘s February CE article on treating the often severe and stubborn posttonsillectomy pain in children noted, there are other effective and safer options for children in pain, such as hydrocodone in combination with acetaminophen, as well as some non-opioid analgesics. Here’s a brief overview of the article:

Tonsillectomy, used to treat a variety of pediatric disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea, peritonsillar cellulitis or abscesses, and very frequent throat infection, is known to produce nausea, vomiting, and prolonged, moderate-to-severe pain. The authors review the causes of posttonsillectomy pain, current findings on the efficacy of various pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions in pain management, recommendations for patient and family teaching regarding pain management, and best practices for improving medication adherence.

There’s often no perfect answer in pain management, but it helps to know the full range of available strategies, their safety, and how well they work. As with all CE articles, this one is free.

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The Power of Imagination: Helping Kids with Sickle Cell Disease to Cope with Pain

By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor

Many people with sickle cell disease suffer from both acute and chronic pain, which can be severe. Although the exact mechanism isn’t known, the pain is believed to result when sickled erythrocytes occlude the vascular beds, causing tissue ischemia. Such pain, which often begins in early childhood, arises unpredictably. Although some pain crises may require ED visits, hos­pitalization, opioid treatment, or a combination of these, most are managed at home. Yet little is known about at-home pain management in people with sickle cell disease, especially children.

Table 2. Changes in Self-Efficacy, Imaging Ability, and Pain Perception in School-Age Children After Guided Imagery Training Table 2. Changes in Self-Efficacy, Imaging Ability, and Pain Perception in School-Age Children After Guided Imagery Training

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has shown promise in helping patients with other chronic illnesses to cope with pain. Cassandra Elaine Dobson and Mary Woods Byrne decided to test guided imagery, a form of CBT, among children enrolled at one sickle cell treatment clinic in New York City. They report on their findings in this month’s original research CE, “Using Guided Imagery to Manage Pain in Young Children with Sickle Cell Disease.” The abstract below offers a quick overview; if you click the image above, you’ll see an enlarged view of one table showing key results.

Objectives: The purposes of this study were to test the effects of guided imagery training on school-age children who had been diagnosed with […]

Posttonsillectomy Pain in Children: Safer, More Effective Treatment Strategies

By Shawn Kennedy, editor-in-chief

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One of the CE articles in the February issue is “Posttonsillectomy Pain in Children.” It might seem like a no-brainer—ice-collar, cold fluids, and acetaminophen with codeine, right? WRONG. As the article indicates, there’s a lot more to managing this stubborn, sometimes severe pain.

For one thing, there’s been a big reversal in choice of pain medication. Acetaminophen with codeine, long a mainstay in managing children’s pain, is no longer recommended—in fact, the FDA issued a black box warning last year saying that codeine should not be used because its metabolism rate in one subset of children can cause excessive sedation. Reports of three deaths and a case of nonfatal respiratory depression in children who received appropriate doses prompted the warning. […]