Communication skills in pain medicine

  • Helen J. Makins
    Helen J Makins FRCA FFPMRCA is a consultant anaesthetist specialist in pain management at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Clinical Lead for the Essential Pain Management UK project at the Faculty of Pain Medicine, Royal College of Anaesthetists, UK. Conflicts of interest: none declared
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      This article considers why communication technique may be particularly relevant to pain management consultations. Background is provided from evidence in both primary and palliative care research. The techniques are introduced and explained and include generic communication skills appropriate for all consultations and more advanced techniques. The generic skills described are empathy, allaying anxiety, breaking bad news and shared decision making. Advanced techniques are aimed at facilitating changes in behaviour and include coaching, mentoring and motivational interviewing. The focus is on the complexities of the chronic pain presentation and a variety of potential challenges in a consultation are explored. Example scenarios are used to illustrate how aspects of each specific communication skill might be useful to prevent avoidable distress, diffuse anger and engender change. The expectation is that anaesthetists who communicate well will help patients to make informed decisions and empower them to take steps to optimise their own pain management.


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