An Assessment of Physical Therapy Students’ Attitudes and Readiness to Manage Patients with Chronic Pain

Presenter: Rosalie Caracciolo

Research Category: Health Sciences
Additional Authors: Nicole Powers, Ashley Wedge, Debra Bangs, Marie Corkery, Susan Ventura
PI: Rosalie Caracciolo

Opportunity: 30% of the U.S. population is affected by chronic pain, which costs the healthcare system $635B/year. Healthcare professionals need to be equipped with pain management strategies, including Pain Neuroscience Education (PNE), to replace the use of medication. This study evaluated student readiness, attitudes, knowledge, and beliefs about the use of PNE for the treatment of chronic pain.

Approach: Mixed methods were employed in the study. A survey was distributed by email to students in the Northeastern University Doctor of Physical Therapy (NUDPT) class of 2019  (n=99) to determine the need for curricular enhancements to prepare NUDPT students to utilize PNE to treat pain. The survey included material from two reliable, valid questionnaires (HC-PAIRS and NPQ) to assess beliefs about the relationship between impairment and pain (HC-PAIRS) and knowledge about the physiology and experience of pain (NPQ). Additional open-ended questions gathered student’s perceptions about their readiness to utilize PNE. Five PNE experts and two NUDPT alumni reviewed the survey to ensure readability and accuracy. A response rate of 30% (n=29) was achieved. Data analysis revealed a general perception of unreadiness and need for curricular enhancements.

Impact: PNE is a highly effective adjunct for the physical therapy management of patients with pain. Curricular improvements will better prepare students to utilize PNE to treat patients with chronic pain.