Focus Article| Volume 14, ISSUE 5, P431-437, May 2013

Pain Education at the University of Washington School of Medicine

  • David J. Tauben
    Address reprint requests to David J. Tauben, MD, Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Washington 356044, Seattle, WA 98195.
    Department of Medicine, University of Washington, School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington

    Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Washington, School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington
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  • John D. Loeser
    Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Washington, School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington

    Department of Medicine, University of Washington, School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington
    Search for articles by this author


      Contemporary medical education is inadequate to prepare medical students to competently assess and design care plans for patients with acute and chronic pain. The time devoted to pain education in most medical school curricula is brief and not integrated into case-based clinical experiences, and it is frequently nonexistent during clinical clerkships. Medical student pain curricula have been proposed for over 30 years and are commonly agreed upon, though rarely implemented. As a consequence of poor undergraduate pain education, postgraduate trainees and practicing physicians struggle with both competency and practice satisfaction; their patients are similarly dissatisfied. At the University of Washington School of Medicine, a committee of multidisciplinary pain experts has, between 2009 and 2011, successfully introduced a 4-year integrated pain curriculum that increases required pain education teaching time from 6 to 25 hours, and clinical elective pain courses from 177 to 318 hours. It is expected that increased didactic and case-based multidisciplinary clinical training will increase knowledge and competency in biopsychosocial measurement-based pain narrative and risk assessment, improve understanding of persistent pain as a chronic complex condition, and expand the role of patient-centered interprofessional treatment for medical students, residents, and fellows, leading to better prepared practicing physicians.


      Strategies for improving multidisciplinary pain education at the University of Washington School of Medicine are described and the preliminary results demonstrated.

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