Doctors prescribe fewer painkillers during night shifts than during the day

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Scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that doctors prescribed less pain medication during night shifts than during the day.

The research is published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was conducted by Professor Shoham Choshen-Hillel et al.

Pain management is one of the biggest challenges of the modern healthcare system.

Almost 60% of U.S. adults report having experienced pain in the past three months, and pain is one of the main reasons adults seek medical care.

In the study, 67 doctors were given empathy assessment tasks in the morning and asked to respond to simulated patient scenarios. These doctors were either at the end of a 26-hour shift or just beginning their workday.

The team found that doctors who had recently completed a night shift showed less empathy for patient’s pain.

For example, these doctors showed decreased emotional responses to pictures of people in pain and consistently scored their patients low on pain assessment charts.

In the second part of the study, the researchers looked at actual medical decisions made by emergency room doctors in the United States and Israel.

In all, they analyzed 13,482 discharge letters for patients who came to the hospital in 2013-2020 with a chief complaint of pain (headache, back pain, etc.).

Across all data sets, physicians were 20-30% less likely to prescribe an analgesic during night shifts (compared to daytime shifts) and prescribed fewer painkillers than were generally recommended by the World Health Organization.

The team says that night shift work is an important and previously unrecognized source of bias in pain management, likely stemming from impaired perception of pain.

The researchers explain that even medical experts, who strive to provide the best care for their patients, are susceptible to the effects of a night shift.

Looking ahead, the researchers suggest implementing more structured pain management guidelines in hospitals. Another important implication relates to physician work structure, and the need to improve physicians’ working schedules.

If you care about pain, please read studies that cannabis hemp oil may effectively treat chronic neuropathic pain, and findings of a new way to treat chronic pain.

For more information about pain, please see recent studies about how to manage your back pain, and results showing that exercise harder if you want to ward off pain due to ageing.

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