Role Descriptions

The Pain Management Rehabilitation Nurse

Rehabilitation nurses have progressively expanded their role in pain management programs, facilitating positive patient outcomes by virtue of their expertise. The Association of Rehabilitation Nurses, therefore, endorses the role of the pain management rehabilitation nurse. The role description for this subspecialty has been developed to clarify this role and to promote professionalism based on the established scope and standards of rehabilitation nursing practice.

Definition of the role of the pain management rehabilitation nurse

The following definition is supported by the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses:

The pain management rehabilitation nurse promotes and advances the professional rehabilitation nursing practice of caring for people with pain. Excellence in this specialized practice area is achieved through education, advocacy, research, and networking.

Goals of the pain management rehabilitation nurse

The goal of the pain management rehabilitation nurse is to improve the level of functioning and the quality of life for those affected by pain.

Roles and functions of the pain management rehabilitation nurse

The pain management rehabilitation nurse provides quality staff development and education for healthcare practitioners, clients, caregivers, and members of the community. The pain management rehabilitation nurse uses a scientific knowledge base of pain management to serve as a case manager, a coordinator of care, and a client advocate to facilitate a self-management plan for the person with pain that emphasizes biopsychsocial factors.

The pain management rehabilitation nurse teaches pain management skills and helps the patient (a) set goals that promote compliance and (b) acquire more effective coping mechanisms that minimize the negative effects of pain. Thus, the nurse helps the client take responsibility for managing his or her own care.

The pain management rehabilitation nurse functions as a member of the multidisciplinary team and assumes a variety of roles. The pain management rehabilitation nurse does the following:

  1. serves as a clinical expert on issues concerning the implementation of noninvasive pain management modalities
  2. provides noninvasive pain management interventions
  3. performs nursing and/or pain assessments of people with pain
  4. establishes mutually agreed-upon, realistic, attainable goals with the patient
  5. identifies and documents previously used pain management interventions and the results of the interventions
  6. identifies the physiological and psychological strengths and weaknesses of the person with pain
  7. communicates effectively with team members regarding findings and collaborates with the team on interventions as indicated
  8. participates in determining whether a patient should be admitted to a pain management program
  9. identifies the patient's and the significant other's support systems and includes them in the plan of care
  10. documents a patient's work history and intervenes with the patient's employer if and/or when a need is indicated
  11. serves as a patient advocate with team members to facilitate problem solving
  12. provides pain management information regarding the program, interventions, and pharmacological treatment to the patient and any significant others
  13. participates in staff development, providing current information to the pain management team
  14. participates in research and provides clinical feedback to colleagues
  15. incorporates relevant research findings into practice
  16. reviews the literature and attends seminars and conferences to maintain current knowledge of the field of pain management; and
  17. provides information to the community regarding pain management.


  • Licensure as a registered professional nurse, preferably with a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) from an accredited school, or equivalent work experience is necessary.
  • A minimum of 2 years of related clinical experience and experience in rehabilitation and acute and chronic pain management are highly recommended.
  • Certification in rehabilitation nursing or a related specialty is highly recommended.
  • Maintenance of continuing education appropriate to pain management rehabilitation and maintenance of certification are highly recommended.

This role description was developed by the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses Pain Management Special Interest Group.


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