The University of South Florida College of Nursing is combatting the opioid crisis in rural America by equipping advanced pain specialists with integrative pain management techniques.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 100 opioid-related deaths in the United States every day, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the country’s overdose deaths each year.
While prescribed opioids can help relieve pain in the short term, drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine can become addictive and potentially life-threatening.
Developed for the certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), the Advanced Pain Management Fellowship began in 2016 and offers a highly innovative curriculum, focused on pain treatment strategies that look to opioids as a last option rather than the first.
“In rural America, there is a lack of specialized health care providers, which limits access to care in a timely manner. In some regions, it may take two to three months to get an appointment with a specialist,” said John Maye, professor and pain management education coordinator.
“When CRNAs are properly prepared in advanced pain fellowships, they will help fill and address a critical need, improving access to care and providing options that will help diminish the impact of the opioid epidemic,” Maye said.
Matthew Stokes, a graduate of the fellowship’s first cohort, says the program taught him how to take an integrative approach to pain management, using alternative solutions that help patients tackle their pain in a healthier way.
"By attacking a patient’s pain not just from a physiological standpoint, but also spiritually and psychologically, we can really lower the overall dose they are on or even eliminate the need for opioids all together,” Stokes said.
Stokes is a pain specialist who has taken his USF training and made an impact on the rural communities around Moose Lake, Minnesota, where the population is estimated at 2,807.
While at USF, Stokes also co-wrote "The Pain Management Clinic: The Nurse Anesthetist’s Guidebook for Success," a handbook geared to helping CRNAs open pain management clinics in rural communities.
Shawn Tulp graduated from the Advanced Pain Management Fellowship in 2019 and has since started practicing in rural Iowa. The strategies he learned at USF have not only enabled him to properly dose patients but have also given him the tools needed to properly ween patients off of high doses.
“By providing alternative interventions and other options, we are able to really help patients manage their pain, rather than relying solely on opioids,” Tulp said. “I think we definitely provide a service to the community and to our referring providers.”
“I’ve seen a number of patients who had been prescribed opioids for years and it had created a problem. We’re here to help the patient undo that problem and get them back to much more steady ground,” he said.
In its fifth year, the innovative, high-quality, low-cost fellowship program is offered with both online and on-site instruction. Over the course of one year, CRNAs learn guidelines for understanding and treating both acute and chronic pain, as well as nontraditional pain management approaches.
The program wraps up its latest cohort with a three-day cadaver and physical assessment course at the end of April. The on-site meetup gives fellows the opportunity to demonstrate the procedures they have learned at USF Health’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation. Graduates then go on to perform clinical training at one of USF’s approved training sites across the nation.
For more information about the USF College of Nursing’s Advanced Pain Management Fellowship go to: http://health.usf.edu/nursing/painmgmt.