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COVID-19, older adults, pain management nurses, psychosocial consequences, qualitative study



  1. Booker, Staja Q. PhD, RN
  2. Sowicz, Timothy Joseph PhD, RN
  3. Knisely, Mitchell R. PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, PMGT-BC
  4. Saravanan, Anitha PhD, RN, ANP-BC
  5. Bai, Jinbing PhD, RN, FAAN
  6. St. Marie, Barbara PhD, AGPCNP, FAANP, FAAN


Purpose: In this qualitative descriptive study, we sought to understand the professional experiences and perceptions of pain management nurses who cared for older adults in the United States during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Methods: Data were collected between July 2020 and July 2021 through individual, semistructured interviews with a nonprobability sample of 18 pain management nurses. An inductive content analysis approach, in which categories were derived from a coding process based on a close reading of data extracts from the interview transcripts, was used to reveal the major theme related to the study aim.


Results: Notwithstanding the variable consequences of COVID-19 on patients' health, a single overarching theme was pronounced: "Pain management for older adults remained unchanged during the pandemic despite unpredictable survival, restrictions on human interactions, and communication challenges." This theme was supported by four categories that emerged from the data: unpredictable survival, restriction-induced isolation, perceived continuity and equality of pain management, and communication challenges.


Conclusions: During the COVID-19 pandemic, pain management nurses stepped in and joined interdisciplinary teams providing general and specialized pain care to ensure that older adults, whether inpatient or outpatient, continued to receive quality care. These study findings highlight the many challenges pain management nurses faced during this unprecedented public health crisis, as well as opportunities to improve the health system and enhance nursing practice to meet the needs of older patients.