Many health-care providers are ill-equipped to recognize pain in abused children

McGill study finds only 13 per cent of those surveyed received training on child maltreatment and its effects on pain assessment

Many health-care professionals are ill-equipped to assess pain in children who have suffered abuse, a new study by McGill researchers suggests. This can lead to inadequate pain treatment, making the physical and emotional effects of abuse even worse.

"Our findings show a critical need for training programs for health-care providers about the effects of child maltreatment," said Matthew Baker, the study’s lead author and a PhD candidate in the School/Applied Child Psychology program at McGill.

The researchers surveyed 100 health-care providers in Canada and the United States, using an online questionnaire. They found only 13 per cent had received training on child maltreatment and its effect on assessing pain in children with a history of abuse. Those who had received continuing education on child maltreatment were more likely to consider its impact on a child’s pain reports and adapt their assessments accordingly.

"With so few providers trained, it’s vital to raise awareness and improve education on how abused children present in health-care settings in order to enhance their treatment outcomes," Baker said.

About the study

" An examination of questioning methods and the influence of child maltreatment on paediatric pain assessments: Perspectives of healthcare providers " by Baker, M., Campbell, S., Patel, K., McWilliams, K., & Williams, S. was published in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice.

About McGill University 

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is Canada’s top ranked medical doctoral university. McGill is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning three campuses, 12 faculties, 14 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 39,000 students, including more than 10,400 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,000 international students making up 30% of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 20% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.