NPR feature: How U-M Medical School and others are teaching students about treating pain
The Association of American Medical Colleges recently honored Michigan and three other schools for their innovative work in training the next generation of doctors about pain treatment and addiction
On May 28, Professor of Surgery Michael J. Englesbe, M.D., and the University of Michigan Medical School were featured in a National Public Radio (NPR) news story and broadcast about how medical schools are teaching students about pain treatment and opioid addiction.
Following is an excerpt from the written story, “Medical Schools Look to Educate the Next Generation of Doctors on Pain,” from NPR’s On Point feature:
When Dr. Michael Englesbe was a surgery resident about three decades ago, he said he received no specific education about prescribing opioids.
“So the way surgeons learn [is], your first day as a resident, you ask the person sitting next to you how many pills do you get for this procedure,” he said. “That number continued to get more and more over the past decade or two, and surgeons were kind of running for more and more opioids.”
In 2016, a med student at the university followed up with patients who had their gallbladders removed to find out how many pain pills the patients took after their operations. The patients had generally been prescribed 45 pills.
But the average patient only took six. The student’s work led to a change in the number of pills prescribed after these procedures, as well as a change in the curriculum at the university.
“What we learned is, we as nurses and doctors do a poor job of talking to patients about their pain and how we can best care for it,” said Dr. Englesbe, professor of surgery at the University of Michigan Medical School. “This has expanded to a point where this small template of trying to align the pills to their pain has been exported across every procedure in the state of Michigan.”
The university estimates that the introduction of the new curriculum has prevented more than 40,000 excess pills from entering the community.
The Association of American Medical Colleges recently honored the U-M and three other schools — University of Massachusetts Medical School, Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University, and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences — for their innovative work in training the next generation of doctors about pain treatment and addiction.
Englesbe (pictured), the Cyrenus G. Darling Sr., M.D., and Cyrenus G. Darling Jr., M.D., Professor of Surgery in the U-M Medical School, also participated in a 47-minute NPR broadcast, “Medical Schools are Changing the Way They teach Treatment for Pain, Opioid Addiction.”
He was joined by Kelly J. Clark, M.D., past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and founder of Addiction Crisis Solutions, a company focused on transforming addiction care into evidence-based, cost-effective practice.
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What we learned is, we as nurses and doctors do a poor job of talking to patients about their pain and how we can best care for it. This has expanded to a point where this small template of trying to align the pills to their pain has been exported across every procedure in the state of Michigan.