The effect of undergraduate education on pain-related attitudes and beliefs in healthcare students

Nathan Augeard, Sean Paul Carroll, Jacob Tennant, Chris Seenan

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Objective:To investigate: the differences in attitudes and beliefs towards persistent pain management between first- and final-year undergraduate healthcare students and the magnitude of change across disciplines.Methods:Online cross-sectional questionnaires of first- and final-year adult, child and mental health nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and podiatry students at Glasgow Caledonian University. Scores from the Health Care Providers' Pain and Impairment Relationship Scale (HC-PAIRS) and the Back Beliefs Questionnaire (BBQ) were analysed with independent t-tests and a two-way analysis of variance.Results:Completed questionnaires were analysed (HC-PAIRS n=177; BBQ n=173). Mean HC-PAIRS scores in final-year mental health nursing (65.08) and physiotherapy students (55.64) indicated significantly more evidence-based beliefs than first-year students (72.17, p=.029 and 65.75, p<.001 respectively). Similarly, final-year physiotherapy students mean score on the BBQ was greater than their first-year peers (34.06 versus 27.96, p<.001). HC-PAIRS scores were found to be significantly different between the courses, (F(5,165)=3.69 p=.003 ¿p2 =.101) and years (F(1,165)=6.71 p=.010 ¿p2 =.039). This main effect of Course, (F(5,161)=2.72 p=.022 ¿p2 =.078) and Year, (F(1,161)=5.20 p=.024 ¿p2 =.031) was also observed for the BBQ. However, the Course x Year interaction only reached statistical significance for the BBQ (F(5,161)=2.44 p=.036 ¿p2 =.071). No differences were observed in questionnaire scores for the other students included in the study.Conclusions:Final-year healthcare students appear to have more positive attitudes and beliefs towards persistent pain management than first-year students, suggesting that undergraduate education may have a positive influence on pain-related attitudes and beliefs. Specific disciplines or courses seem to be associated with greater improvements than others. The curriculum employed in these courses could be investigated as a way to enhance pain-related education. However, further research is required to explore the best way to improve pain-related attitudes and beliefs in undergraduate healthcare students.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-18
Number of pages11
JournalPain and Rehabilitation: The Journal of Physiotherapy Pain Association
Issue number46
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • chronic pain
  • education
  • management
  • students
  • healthcare professionals
  • attitudes and beliefs
  • pain


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