Faculty Spotlight

Lynn McPherson, PharmD, MA, BCPS, CPE

Innovative Approaches to Pain Assessment in Palliative Care Education

We are thrilled to shine the spotlight on Mary Lynn McPherson, PharmD, MA, BCPS, CPE, Professor of Practice, and Executive Director of Advanced Post-Graduate Education in Palliative Care at the School of Pharmacy. In this faculty spotlight, we dive into her groundbreaking work in the course "PALC 605: Symptom Management and Advanced Illness" that all students in the program take.

The course, which encompasses physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and administrators, focuses on the critical skill of pain management. Dr. McPherson's innovative approach involves an 11-step adaptive release exercise designed to assess a complaint of pain. The exercise not only enhances students' understanding but also ensures alignment with the program's terminal performance objectives.

The first step involves a three-minute video featuring Dr. McPherson and another faculty member modeling the assessment of a single pain complaint from a verbally cognitively intact patient. Students then watch the video and provide their observations. Only after completing this step can they progress to the next.

The subsequent step entails a short narrated video that guides students through a multidimensional pain assessment using the PQRSTU model. To facilitate their learning, a form is provided, pre-populated with all eight elements of symptom analysis. After rewatching the video, students can compare their outcomes and gauge their improvement.

The exercise continues to advance in complexity as Dr. McPherson and her colleague switch roles, simulating a more intricate scenario where the patient complains of chest and arm pain. This comprehensive approach, spanning 11 steps, has yielded promising results and even sparked research endeavors.

Pre- and post-surveys assessing knowledge, skills, and attitudes toward multidimensional pain assessment have demonstrated a clear behavioral change among students. The collected data supports the effectiveness of Dr. McPherson's method in enhancing students' proficiency and understanding.

The impact of Dr. McPherson's work extends far beyond the classroom, revolutionizing pain assessment in palliative care education. By integrating innovative exercises and incorporating real-world scenarios, she equips students with the necessary skills to provide optimal care to patients experiencing complex pain symptoms.

We applaud Dr. Mary Lynn McPherson for her dedication to advancing palliative care education and for her transformative contributions to pain management. 

Stay tuned for more insightful faculty spotlights highlighting the exceptional work of our esteemed educators.

The data we have collected clearly has shown that students' behavior did change.