Pain Management

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Relieving pain is an essential component of care. Not only is pain relief important for comfort, but it also affects the healing process.

Pain management is especially complex when it comes to pediatric care. We treat young children — including babies and toddlers — who can't always verbalize how they're feeling or where it hurts, so it's extra important that our doctors and nurses do a good job of assessing pain and responding with the appropriate medications and care.

How are we doing?

The gold standard for managing pain is a three-step process known as the pain assessment-intervention-reassessment (AIR) cycle. This involves 1) assessing pain levels (by talking with the patient or looking for nonverbal signs), 2) giving pain medication when necessary, and 3) reassessing the situation to make sure the medication is working properly and there are no problematic side effects.

To measure the effectiveness of our pain management, we track how often the nurses in our inpatient units follow this three-step AIR cycle in a random, statistically significant sample of patients. Our goal is to complete the three steps 100 percent of the time for each patient in any 24-hour period.

We're pleased to report that our track record in this area is nearly perfect over the past several years:

% of Pain AIR Cycles Completed
Inpatient Units


(Last updated: March 30, 2015. All charts show most recent available data.)

What are we doing to improve?

Even though we've met the 100 percent goal we've set for ourselves, we continue to focus on improving the quality of our care. We have a specialized pain management team that works closely with staff across the entire hospital. We've also formed an interdisciplinary pain committee made up of nurses and doctors, which meets monthly to discuss and set in motion effective pain management strategies hospital-wide.

How do we compare to other hospitals?

We submit our pain management data four times a year to the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators, an independent registry that tracks a wide range of nursing-related measures. Many other children's hospitals participate in the same database and may publish information on their AIR cycle performance on their websites, as we do.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

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