Five Questions for Paul Wilkinson, chair of the SIG on Pain Education
(From an interview in the December 2015 edition of Pain: E-Monthly)
1. The IASP Council has announced that 2018 will be the Global Year for Excellence in Pain Education. Why is focusing on pain education so crucial?
There is a continuing gap between what is known about effective pain management and the delivery of effective patient care. Inadequate provision of pain education for health-care professionals has been repeatedly recorded worldwide for acute, chronic, and cancer pain patients. Poor understanding of pain is prevalent among policymakers, care-givers, administrators, and the public as well as patients themselves.
Further, studies consistently show alarming deficits in the provision of undergraduate pain education, and improvements in postgraduate pain education occur slowly even in developed countries. Effective training for pain specialists is largely inaccessible in many developing countries, and IASP initiatives are pivotal in the development of the specialist fellowships that already exist.
There is so much to do to improve public education about available and appropriate pain treatments. IASP has been at the forefront of many international initiatives, and it is gratifying to know that excellence in pain education will be the focus of a global year. The presence of an education gap allows inappropriate treatments to be normalized and misunderstandings to bloom. Against this backdrop, there can be no better time than now to use the power of an IASP global initiative to shine a spotlight on pain education and help bridge the gap between knowledge and practice.
2. What will be the priorities of the Global Year for Excellence in Pain Education?
This Global Year for Excellence in Pain education will focus on several key areas: We would like to see government and health-care providers emphasize pain as a major public health issue. That said, excellence in pain education will address undergraduate, postgraduate, continuing professional, and patient education.
We also hope to address education in developing or poorly resourced countries and regions, as well as educational practices tailored to underserved groups in developed nations. And of course pain education research will be a high priority.
3. What are some specific shortcomings you see this effort addressing?
A lack of understanding exists about the scale of the public health issues concerning pain. This gap leads to outdated and inaccurate information. We know from recent surveys that pain content is absent in curricula for health science students. Pain-related competencies are only recently available to ensure that graduates are sufficiently trained to provide appropriate pain management. Implementation of pain curricula is sporadic at best across the various clinical disciplines that treat people in pain.
Moreover, once health-care professionals are licensed, there is lack of clarity in methods for continuing professional development in many specialties, and current evidence is not being transferred to pain management practices as effectively as possible. When this does occur, outcomes tend to focus on knowledge rather than competence and improved patient outcomes.
4. What are some specific resources that might be developed?
We have ambitious plans that we hope will motivate people. These will include ways all IASP members can increase awareness of the need to improve pain education in their respective countries. Stay tuned!
5. What do SIG members tell you they want most from their SIG membership?
Priorities identified by SIG members are support for online learning, teaching methods, and networking opportunities. They want a forum to share resources rather than reinvent the wheel. The mandate from the SIG membership is to have a successful Global Year and make a difference! SIG members want to sustain ways to promote the sharing of educational ideas and initiatives, provide educational resources such as the core competencies, communicate news though our biannual newsletter, advocate effectively for better pain education, and promote the development of aspiring pain education specialists though awards and travel grants.
Alas, there is so much to do, but there is a hugely capable SIG membership of more than 300 enthusiasts from more than 60 nations. Together, we will achieve all our aims!