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UW Nursing co-leads designated NIH Center of Excellence in Pain Education


Date: July 17, 2012
Media Contact: Ashley Wiggin,, 206-221-2456

Ardith DoorenbosArdith DoorenbosChronic pain affects approximately 100 million Americans, costing up to $635 billion in medical treatment and lost productivity each year. Yet pain management is often not taught in many health professional schools. Recognizing the need for this change, the NIH has selected 12 schools to develop pain curricula with the University of Washington named the lead site. These curricula will advance the assessment, diagnosis and safe treatment of a wide variety of pain conditions.

Housed jointly in the schools of nursing and medicine, the UW Center of Excellence in Pain Education (CoEPE) is co-led by Nursing Associate Professor Ardith Doorenbos, and David Tauben, Clinical Associate Professor in the department of anesthesiology and pain management in the school of medicine. There are over 30 core faculty involved in the center, representing all UW Health Sciences disciplines, including nursing, pharmacy, medicine, social work, dentistry and public health.

“Nurses have a great ability to manage the impact of pain,” said Doorenbos, associate professor in the department of biobehavioral nursing and health systems. “Pain is something that nurses have to deal with often and is one of the top reasons that people go to the emergency room. Nurses take a holistic approach to managing pain, rather than just a pharmacological approach.”

The UW CoEPE is focused on three components: telehealth; interprofessional education; and the integration of pain management content into existing curriculum. The center launched the telehealth program for pain management earlier this year, allowing rural hospitals and practitioners access to a team of experts here at the University of Washington.

“We are hopeful that telehealth will provide better pain management in the patient population in the rural setting,” she said. “Overall, along with decreased pain severity, we would like to see less anxiety and depression among patients dealing with chronic pain. We also hope to see a reduction in hospitalizations and ER visits, which will lead to more cost-effective care delivery.”

The interprofessional education program will bring students from across the health sciences together to learn about pain assessment and diagnosis and each discipline’s individual role in managing pain. Doorenbos notes that the interprofessional opportunities afforded by this center will be instrumental in training health care  professionals moving forward.

“Interprofessional education is the way of the future,” she said. “This improved curriculum will really bring students together and help to identify the role that each discipline can play in pain management.”

Doorenbos also notes that the training provided by the center will lead to better care for patients, as the curriculum will teach students how to work in interprofessional health care teams.

“Good teamwork doesn’t just happen, it requires clear communication,” she said. “The center will provide training to students so they work together, which ultimately reduces conflict and miscommunication. This leads to better care for the patient.”

10 NIH institutes came together to fund these centers, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is coordinating the project, the National Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the National Institute of Nursing Research and the National Institute on Aging, among others. Other NIH Centers of Excellence in Pain Education include: University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine (PA), Johns Hopkins University, Southern Illinois University (IL) and The University of Rochester (NY). You can read the full list of schools here.


The University of Washington School of Nursing is consistently a top-rated nursing school, according to U.S. News & World Report. Ranked No. 3 in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the UW School of Nursing is a national and international leader in improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. The school addresses society’s most pressing challenges in health care through innovative teaching, award winning research and community service. For more information, visit