Confessions of a Hospital Administrator: I Feel Your Pain...Pill

A former hospital administrator shares what he learned about opioid pain addicts in the middle of the night and how the ACA holds promise to make life easier for all nurses.


  • Specializes in Administrator inspired by nurses. Has 25 years experience.

You are reading page 2 of Confessions of a Hospital Administrator: I Feel Your Pain...Pill

Specializes in Emergency, Trauma, Critical Care. Has 14 years experience.
as a pretty new (3yr) nurse, I must ask... why do we cater to these types of "I have allergies to toradol and morphine and must have my dilaudid with phenergan/benedryl" kind of people? Please, there is no need to get "liberal" with me, you know we all have too many of these kinds of pain seekers coming in making a show for narcotics or benzos or what not. What is in for the hospital or ER docs to cater to them? I just don't get this. Registration tells me their ER bills disappear after 7 yrs, most of them have no insurance and don't even pay the bills, so there is absolutely no financial gain from these people, let alone reimbursement (or is there?). So why not just firmly tell every single one of these opiate-addicts who frequently come that we will not give them anything? Why can't we do that?

I worked at an ER where we frequently did that. If pt had multiple scripts in the California registry. The nurse and doc sat in the room together, explained we were not allowed to prescribe because of this and they needed to see their primary doc and we were happy to ensure a follow up with a pain specialist. Usually works better with both of us there in force. If we were not together they'd keep trying to manipulate one or the other. Where I'm at now I notice it's very physician dependent. I wish the rules were consistent across the board, it makes things easier for all.

freki, ADN, RN

45 Posts

Specializes in Emergency. Has 6 years experience.

The abuse from drug seekers is unacceptable. In Washington there is a law about disrupting a hospital that includes yelling and shouting or otherwise threatening nurses or physicians. I am pretty firm with the people who put on a show and point to that law...and then they usually walk out.

I have been advocating more and more the opioid-free ED (Home). This guy has studies and information about treating common painful conditions with alternatives to narcotics. He has run trials of "shifts in the ED without opioids" successfully. I think part of the problem is that numbing people to their pain with narcotics is the easiest way to deal with patients in a busy environment. Physicians and nurses need to take time and utilize their knowledge and evidence to address pain more deeply, rather than spraying everyone with happy juice. Then those with true pain get the relief they deserve and the abusers come out of the framework.


249 Posts

Has 5 years experience.

Back when I worked the hospital, you may slip by once or twice, and get some medication, you know, you have to give them the benefit of the doubt the first time or two. But we kept pretty close tabs on patients who were seekers (no, not the Harry Potter seekers, but if some of these people were so high they probably did think they were zooming after a golden ball on a broomstick) but anyway.. after a few times we found out who you were, tabbed your name into our memory, and bounced your name around the group. So when your name was tabbed in our ''almost no narcotic list,' you were found. If you argue with us, we told the nurse to get the AMA paper. Of course we ran full labs and imaging as needed to make sure nothing was wrong (big waste of money of course most the time) but you did not get what you want.

They learn after a few times. Our hospitalist group was very cautious with pain meds, in those who were proven to be seekers. But if you had an actual problem, you get the narcs to stay comfy, as anybody should that has an actual issue causing pain.

And if you take home narcotics, you get a drug test and a registry ran on you, then if everything checks out, you get them at your home dose. If you get hard to deal with, that Q6 just turned into a Q12 at half your regular dose.

ER worked the same way pretty much, almost always they only gave toradol.

Have pity on them, but do not feed the addiction.


6 Articles; 42 Posts

Specializes in Administrator inspired by nurses. Has 25 years experience.

It's usually out-of-the-box thinking that come up with better responses and patient care. My experience is when an opiate patient realizes there is not other course available, they will either seek help or move to street drugs. So the answer needs to be multi-faceted and extend outside the walls of the hospital.

Roy Fokker, BSN, RN

2 Articles; 2,011 Posts

Specializes in ER/Trauma.

Honestly, I'd rather deal with drug seekers than drunks.

That being said - my biggest problem with chronic users/pain management patients; is that they take ER beds away from patients with legit medical problems.

Nothing makes me more upset than having 80 year old grandma with severe abdominal pain and vomiting waiting in the waiting room or scrambling to 'squeeze in an extra stretcher' for the EMS squad that just brought in a nursing home patient with an obvious hip fracture for a stretcher; because the last open stretcher was occupied by a seeker.

It would help if the seekers were understanding and polite/co-operative. But they rarely are. All you get is abuse - usually verbal, sometimes physical. As a nurse, I sympathize they have an addiction and that they're in pain/withdrawal. But somehow they NEVER seem to sympathize with me and the fact that I have patients more critical than they are. Or the fact that the Doctor is busy dealing with critical patients. And THAT is what REALLY irks me off...


1 Post

Wow, this is such a good post and really hits home as I have a family member who in the past was addicted to pain meds and its crazy to think how many people have this issues and the extremes they will take to get the meds (the gun point story).


4 Posts

Makes me think of the patient I had recently who had been getting Dilaudid for "side pain" (actual admitting diagnosis was PNA/COPD exacerbation). CT, Xray, and Ultrasound were all negative. Physician informs patient that pain is almost certainly pleuritic in nature and they would be DC'ing the Dilaudid, and she would have to just manage with her (very large) dose of home Percocet and Opana. She IMMEDIATELY says "So I can go home, right?" Physician tells her no, she still has Pneumonia and is still getting nebs Q4 while awake along with 3 different antibiotics and hi-dose solumedrol and that she needs to be in the hospital for that.

"But if you're not going to treat my pain, why can't I go home?"

"Because the pleural pain will go away on its own as the pneumonia resolves. You've had Dilaudid for several days now, the pleurisy should be resolving soon, and we are weaning you back to your home meds. You still have pneumonia, and if we don't treat that, it WILL kill you. Pain will not."

Needless to say, the patient was not happy. I just find it funny (in a sad way) that she didn't care that she had pneumonia, and that it could kill her. She just wanted pain meds.


6 Articles; 42 Posts

Specializes in Administrator inspired by nurses. Has 25 years experience.

These patients are often operating from a place of self-delusion, convinced the world is against them. It's their defense mechanism so they don't have to admit they are addicted.


27 Posts

The counter to this is that many docs are now stingy with pain medications and rather than simply give the nurses the tools to manage pain at the bedside, they "nickel and dime" us with the most unrealistic pain management tools and require us to solicit a new order each time.

The narcotic epidemic is bred, born, and nurtured in the clinics and the community, not in the ED.

I have fibromyalgia. Many years ago, my PCP gave me a script for hydrocodone, which I rarely used--it makes me loopy, but does very little to actually relieve the pain.

I had a total abdominal hysterectomy 12 years ago. As I was leaving the hospital, the nurses tried to give me a script for hydrocodone. The nursing staff had all been pleasant, polite, and professional throughout my stay. I politely turned down the script, because I knew I had an almost-full bottle of hydrocodone at home. The nurses thought I was trying to be "stoic," and said "Trust us, honey, you'll need the script!" I smiled politely and said "No, *you* don't understand, I have an almost-full bottle at home!"

Instantly the nursing staff's attitude did a complete 180. "What do you mean, you have an almost full bottle at home? Where did you get it? *We* didn't give it to you!" and so on. It took about five minutes of convincing before they'd let me leave the hospital, *without* the script they'd tried to give me in the first place.


6 Articles; 42 Posts

Specializes in Administrator inspired by nurses. Has 25 years experience.

As I used to tell my late, lovely father-in-law it's OK to use pain meds if you have pain. He had an unusual late stage cancer of the bile ducts and he was afraid of getting "hooked" on pain meds. He was a retired Navy pilot and of the generation that toughed-out their pain. It seems to me the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but I do not have experiences such as yours to really have an insightful opinion. You sound tough, too. :)


27 Posts

Aww, thank you. I've been through 17 shunt surgeries (I'm hydrocephalic), so my pain tolerance is higher than most ppl, but after the hysterectomy I was popping the hydrocodone like candy. Take two, fall asleep for a few hours, wake up, take two more, fall back asleep, etc. I was basically awake long enough to bathe, eat, and go to the bathroom for the first two weeks post-surgery. Haven't touched any hydrocodone since.



175 Posts

Our society has catered to this behavior for so long. People expect to be pain free when they come to the hospital. It is a part of that "right now" mentality that has developed nationwide. And now we have suboxone clinics, which are supposedly opioid addiction management centers. Ha. It's like trading one addiction for another.

I wish people would see that when you continually take these opioids just to get high, and then actually need them for pain after mvc or surgery, these medicines won't work any more.

Until nationwide standards are set, we as health care providers will continue to deal with this problem. I wish more administrators were as supportive as you are. I think if more CEOs took phone calls from these people or had to come into the hospital in the middle of the night to deal with this, our plight would be seen and we may actually get the raises and support we deserve!