BACKGROUND: Studies in Europe, North America and Australasia suggest that one in five adults suffer from pain. There is increasing recognition that pain, particularly chronic pain, represents a global health burden. Many studies, including two national surveys exploring the content of undergraduate curricula for pain education, identify that documented pain education in curricula was limited and fragmentary.
METHODS: The study design used a questionnaire which included an open text comment box for respondents to add 'further comments' as part of larger study previously published. The sample consisted of 19 UK universities that offered 108 undergraduate programmes in the following: dentistry, medicine, midwifery, nursing (adult, child, learning disabilities and mental health branches), occupational therapy (OT), pharmacy, physiotherapy and veterinary science. An inductive content analysis was performed, and the data were managed using NVivo 10 software for data management.
RESULTS: A total of 57 participants across seven disciplines (dentistry, medicine, midwifery, nursing, pharmacy, physiotherapy and OT) completed the open text comment box (none were received from veterinary science). Analysis revealed two major themes of successes and challenges. Successes included expansion (extending coverage and/or increased student access), multidimensional curriculum content and diversity of teaching methods. Challenges included difficulties in identifying where pain is taught in the curriculum, biomedical versus biopsychosocial definitions of pain, perceived importance, time, resources and staff knowledge, and finally a diffusion of responsibility for pain education.
CONCLUSION: This study identifies new insights of the factors attributed to successful implementation of pain education in undergraduate education. Many of the challenges previously reported were also identified. This is one of the first studies to identify a broad range of approaches, for pain education, that could be deemed as 'successful' across a range of health disciplines.