October 06, 2016

Vet Technicians Can Play Vital Role In Improving Pain Control

Behavioral model reveals subconscious beliefs that restrict good pain management
By Erin White
Recognizing that an animal is in pain can be difficult, and may lead to inadequate pain management; as a result, new guidelines have been issued in the to improve the standard of care. Veterinary technician Aneesa Malik and veterinary surgeon Ailsa Guenevere (Guen) Bradbury suggest that insights gained from behavioural science–used increasingly in the field of medicine–can offer new strategies to improve pain management in the veterinary clinic.
Guen Bradbury was a clinical anaesthetist at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh, Scotland. She explains: “We simply don’t know how most species show that they are in pain. We have good evidence to back up pain scoring systems in dogs, and some evidence for pain scoring systems in cats and a few rodent species, but generally, knowledge is weak or virtually non-existent.
“Vet students in the United States and United Kingdom are now taught about the importance of managing pain. However, those that have not received this training may not know how to assess the level of pain, or understand why it is vital to reduce pain, and are therefore less likely to treat pain effectively. As a result, analgesia is underused in many small animal clinics.”
New guidelines developed by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) reflect the consensus of current scientific thinking and acknowledge that pain management is central to veterinary practices across the world.  
Effective pain management not only alleviates pain, but also speeds up healing and can improve the animal’s quality of life. However, the effective management of pain requires a continuum of care that includes anticipation, early intervention, and evaluation of response in each individual animal. Veterinary surgeons try to make rational decisions, but, like all humans, our behavior may be affected by different subconscious factors, so pain management may often be imperfect.
Vets and vet technicians have different perspectives on pain management, as a result of their roles and training. The researchers have identified that a more integrated, multidisciplinary approach would promote better care.

Bradbury explains: “Vets have less ongoing contact with animals in the hospital, they have to make tough choices about the immediate procedure (which will often cause transient suffering), and also make hard decisions about future treatment based on various factors, such as quality and length of life and the owner’s financial situation. By contrast, technicians provide care during hospitalisation and create a bond with the animal to reduce the stress of the animal during its time in the hospital. The AAHA/AAFP guidelines stress the importance of these nonpharmacologic interventions.
“There is plenty of evidence that good pain control improves medical outcomes. Additionally, it’s been shown that just the presence of a technician increases the likelihood of a vet giving analgesia. We therefore looked at how technicians could consciously help to create a culture of care where pain management is the responsibility of the whole veterinary team.”
Now working at Innovia Technology, Bradbury has gained an understanding of how behavioural science can be used to determine and understand behaviour in the workplace, revealing the underlying factors influencing decision-making.

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