Although unlicensed staff have routine contact with patients in pain, little research relates to their role with these patients. The purpose of this study was to describe the experiences of unlicensed inpatient hospital staff caring for cancer patients in pain. We sought to understand pain identification and communication practices, describe common practice situations, and identify training needs. We conducted 4 focus groups with unit secretaries, nurses' aides, and housekeepers (N = 24) on 2 inpatient oncology units at an urban, northeastern teaching hospital. Group processes were tape-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using Atlas/ti software and content analysis. Analysis generated 5 issues related to pain in the daily practice of unlicensed staff: perceived function with pain, building relationships with patients, interpreting patients' pain, system issues, and job challenges and coping strategies. Unlicensed staff reported performing important functions related to pain, including alerting nursing staff to patients' pain, and providing psychosocial support. Participants shared difficulties of working with patients in pain and expressed interest in education on pain identification and course of illness. Findings provide insight into the role of unlicensed staff, and have implications for the educational preparation of this group as well as the nature of their participation in the care delivery system.
- Unlicensed staff
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