Pain was elevated to the status of a vital sign more than a decade ago to raise awareness about the importance of pain assessment and management, yet critical care nurses like Joanna Zanko, RN, MS, CCRN, face the reality every day that many patients still suffer from significant pain. Even more disturbing is that in many cases these critically ill patients cannot verbalize their pain.Every once in a while these nonverbal patients are given a voice. In July, the New York Times published a story about a patient — who also was an RN — in an ICU in Fort Worth, Texas. She was gravely ill due to abdominal infections and surgeries and had been sedated and intubated. The woman recovered physically, but her stay in the ICU was so traumatic that she was tormented by it several years later. She experienced short-term memory loss and had trouble sleeping after she recovered.
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