skip to page content
Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

Health Services Research & Development

Go to the ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

HSR&D Citation Abstract

Search | Search by Center | Search by Source | Keywords in Title

Pain Care in the Department of Veterans Affairs: Understanding How a Cultural Shift in Pain Care Impacts Provider Decisions and Collaboration.

Mattocks K, Rosen MI, Sellinger J, Ngo T, Brummett B, Higgins DM, Reznik TE, Holtzheimer P, Semiatin AM, Stapley T, Martino S. Pain Care in the Department of Veterans Affairs: Understanding How a Cultural Shift in Pain Care Impacts Provider Decisions and Collaboration. Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.). 2020 May 1; 21(5):970-977.

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

If you have VA-Intranet access, click here for more information

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
   Search Dimensions for VA for this citation
* Don't have VA-internal network access or a VA email address? Try searching the free-to-the-public version of Dimensions


OBJECTIVE: Over the past decade, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has experienced a sizeable shift in its approach to pain. The VA''s 2009 Pain Management Directive introduced the Stepped Care Model, which emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to pain management involving pain referrals and management from primary to specialty care providers. Additionally, the Opioid Safety Initiative and 2017 VA/Department of Defense (DoD) clinical guidelines on opioid prescribing set a new standard for reducing opioid use in the VA. These shifts in pain care have led to new pain management strategies that rely on multidisciplinary teams and nonpharmacologic pain treatments. The goal of this study was to examine how the cultural transformation of pain care has impacted providers, the degree to which VA providers are aware of pain care services at their facilities, and their perceptions of multidisciplinary care and collaboration across VA disciplines. METHODS: We conducted semistructured phone interviews with 39 VA clinicians in primary care, mental health, pharmacy, and physical therapy/rehabilitation at eight Veterans Integrated Service Network medical centers in New England. RESULTS: We identified four major themes concerning interdisciplinary pain management approaches: 1) the culture of VA pain care has changed dramatically, with a greater focus on nonpharmacologic approaches to pain, though many "old school" providers continue to prefer medication options; 2) most facilities in this sample have no clear roadmap about which pain treatment pathway to follow, with many providers unaware of what treatment to recommend when; 3) despite multiple options for pain treatment, VA multidisciplinary teams generally work together to ensure that veterans receive coordinated pain care; and 4) veteran preferences for care may not align with existing pain care pathways. CONCLUSIONS: The VA has shifted its practices regarding pain management, with a greater emphasis on nonpharmacologic pain options. The proliferation of nonpharmacologic pain management strategies requires stakeholders to know how to choose among alternative treatments.

Questions about the HSR&D website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.