A Survey of Pain Science Curricula at Graduate Universities of Health Sciences
Purpose/Hypothesis: Chronic pain is a growing problem and has been estimated to affect up to 30% of the population.1 Health science curricula are not meeting the need of those struggling with pain.2 Surveys of Doctor of Physical Therapy (PT) programs3 and medical schools4 reported 31 and 9 respective hours of teaching pain. Duration of teaching pain (hours) reported by the health science programs at the University of Washington were: pharmacy (21), medicine (28), and dentistry (117).5 Curricular outlines have been created by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP).6 This, along with the opioid epidemic, has prompted universities to incorporate these curricular outlines into their standard curricula. The purpose of this study was to compare the curricula of various graduate health science programs to the recommended IASP curricula outlines. We hypothesized that discrepancies would exist. Number of Subjects: Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (1), Dentistry (1) and Pharmacy (2), and Occupational Therapy (OT; 1), Psychology (2) and PT (4) programs were represented across 4 university communities within the midwestern and southwestern United States (n=11). Materials and Methods: The IASP outlines on pain for Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, OT, Psychology, and PT6 were converted into survey form (SurveyMonkey, San Mateo, CA). The recommended components within the domains were itemized. Because multiple faculty often contribute to the pain science curriculum, paper surveys were hand delivered to the Colleges and programs within our local university community to facilitate a collective response. Electronic surveys were completed by faculty representatives from programs within our region and nationally. Rate of survey interest, rate of completion, and percent (%) agreement of items being taught within the core curriculum versus recommended IASP components were manually computed. Results: We received a 75% rate of interest (12/16) and a 92% rate of completion (11/12). Medicine represented 61%, Dentistry 76%, Pharmacy 61%, OT 81%, Psychology 58%, and PT 75% agreements with IASP recommendations.6 Overall, there was a 69% agreement. Conclusions: The %agreements represented were relatively high, therefore not in support of our hypothesis. Since the inception of IASP curricular guidelines in 2012, these findings indicate a positive upward trend in adherence. To our knowledge, the current work was the first to gather %agreement with IASP outlines, limiting this study’s comparability with the duration of teaching pain reported across other studies.3-5 Hush et al. (2018) reported successful integration of the IASP PT outline into a new program. There was 100% agreement, however students’ pain neurobiology knowledge pre- and post-integration of the outline was the outcome of interest not %agreement.7 Clinical Relevance: Many graduate universities of health sciences are devoted to interprofessional education. Efforts to foster collaboration not only within, but between programs will promote an even greater adherence to the IASP curricula outlines. This adherence will aide in providing increased non-opioids options for patients dealing with chronic pain.