Ambulance staff assessment of pain in people living with dementia

An exciting opportunity to apply for a fully funded PhD position in the College of Arts, Technology and Environment, UWE Bristol. 

Closing date: 30 June 2023

Interviews likely to take place: During August

Anticipated Start Date:  1 October 2023. 

Assessment of pain by ambulance staff in an emergency for someone living with dementia is currently inadequate. Assessment is crucial to ensure pain is treated and reduce the chances of complications; if pain is not accurately assessed then injuries, such as hip fractures, could be missed by ambulance staff. Lack of timely treatment leads to a high risk of a need for further healthcare, longer hospital stays and death. In previous research, we found pain is less often recorded in ambulance care records for older people living with dementia compared to older people without dementia. It is likely that this is because it is difficult for ambulance staff to assess pain using the usual methods, particularly if the patient is confused or distressed and finds it difficult to communicate.

Pain assessments for people with dementia who are in hospital or a care home often rely on reports from carers or on repeated observations over a period of time. This is difficult for ambulance staff because they are not with the patient for very long, often don’t have access to medical records and need to make decisions quickly. There are 30-40 pain assessment tools for use with people with dementia that have been published in the literature. However, only two of these are potentially suitable for ambulance patients; the others are more suitable to use with people living in care homes or patients staying in hospital. There are no pain assessment tools specifically designed for the ambulance service.

Project Aim: To investigate how ambulance staff assess and document pain in people living with dementia, explore barriers and facilitators to pain assessment tools and develop a new tool for the ambulance service.

If you think this may be of interest to you, please click here for details on funding, eligibility and how to apply. Closing date: 30 June 2023