Degree Name

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Document Type

Major Paper


School of Nursing




In the United States, greater than half of the adult patients who are admitted to critical care experience pain and report poor pain control. Inadequate management of acute pain is associated with negative outcomes, including high blood sugar, insulin resistance, higher infection risk, increased discomfort, decreased satisfaction, and chronic pain. Patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) cannot always express that they are having pain. Recently modified guidelines for the Sustained Use of Sedatives and Analgesics in the Critically Ill Adult recommend a reliable and valid pain assessment instrument for patients who are unable to verbalize pain. For the adult critically ill population, the Critical Care Pain Observation Tool (CPOT) and the Behavioral Pain Scale (BPS) were identified as the most reliable and valid instruments. The purpose of this program development was to provide education for nurses in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) on the CPOT to assist in transitioning to the CPOT as part of the CVICU pain assessment. A pretest-posttest design was utilized to evaluate the nurses’ knowledge of the CPOT. The intervention consisted of a one-hour education session on pain assessment and the CPOT. Thirteen out of a potential twenty-two nurses (n=13, 59%) participated in the educational session with a mean pretest score of 42.3% and a mean posttest score of 93.1%. There was a 50.8% improvement post-intervention total scores. Findings from this quality improvement education intervention suggest that the CVICU nurses’ knowledge increased in both pain assessment and the CPOT following the intervention.