Assessing the quantity and quality of experienced and imagined pain in relation to health professional status

Jacqueline McKechnie, Eric E. Brodie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Effective treatment of pain is based on accurate assessment of the quantity and quality of the pain experience. The aims of this study were to ascertain if recalling one’s own experience of the intensity and quality of pain would be different from imagining another person’s pain and to investigate any differences in assessment by health professionals. An experimental design with one within subject factor with two levels: rating of own pain or another’s pain; and two between subject factors: professional status and gender was implemented. The sample consisted of 145 participants: 100 females (M = 39.4 years); 45 males (M = 43.5 years); 54 of the sample were health professionals. Measures were from McGill Pain Questionnaires (1), Pain Profiles (3) and Visual Analogue Scales for rating own and imagining another’s pain. A repeated measures analysis of variance demonstrated a main effect for intensity [F = (1, 85) 25.55, p < 0.001] with mean pain intensity for own pain significantly lower than other pain. There was an interaction between intensity and professional status [F = (1, 85) 10.53, p = 0.002]; lowest rating for health professionals rating their own pain and highest for health professionals rating another’s pain. Previous research has found that health professionals tend to underestimate patients’ pain. However, in this study, the health professionals, who were lecturers and experienced university educated clinical nurses, overestimated the pain intensity of another’s pain. Brunier et al (48) reports that university educated nurses show more empathy towards those in pain than those without this level of education. Therefore providing a high quality education for health professionals to assess and treat pain adequately, is of utmost importance, particularly for those directly involved in pain management.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)131-140
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pain Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • pain assessment
  • empathy
  • health professionals
  • imagined pain
  • pain quality
  • pain intensity


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing the quantity and quality of experienced and imagined pain in relation to health professional status'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this