The field pain assessment and management is growing along with the demands of an aging population. It’s estimated that more than 75 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. This makes for a huge pool of potential clients. As more and more medical schools and universities offer specialties in pain management, professionals are on the rise and more and more people are choosing to specialize in this field as the population ages, there will be an increased need for more ways to deal with the increasing number of people living longer.
With aging comes pain, and as we get older, that becomes chronic pain. And there are many advances and new ways of thinking about pain management and more schools devoting courses to the subject so there won’t be a shortage. It takes about eight years to obtain a medical degree, but there are specialized programs that can be completed in less time that target specific types of pain.
If you’ve decided this is the path for you, setting up an office and bringing in clients needs to be handled in a professional manner. That means leasing or buying office space, hiring staff and outfitting your suites with the necessary equipment to treat your patients. Paying attention to the things that will give you the most polished look is important.
“Pain management is a relatively new field within the sciences of medicine,” said Micke Brown, president of the American Society of Pain Management Nurses (www.aspmn.org). “It’s probably no older than 25 to 30 years, which is very, very young.”
But it’s a field with a huge pool of potential patients. Some groups estimate that as many as 50 million to 75 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, a number that’s certain to increase.
“We have an aging population that is approaching retirement age, and so they’re all starting to have the aches and pains that we all have when we get older. They’re also very demanding because they’re all trying to stay very active,” said Dr. Leland Lou, chief of the pain-management division at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and director of the school’s Eugene McDermott Center for Pain Management.
In addition to doctors and nurses, X-ray technologists and physical therapists also are needed, Lou said.
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Pain physicians are a special breed of doctor. That probably sounds silly, but becoming a pain management specialist requires more than just a strong educational background—it also requires behavioral traits like empathy and compassion. Of course, we don’t mean these traits are literally required, but they undoubtedly help when you consider the nature of this profession. Working with individuals in pain can be an emotionally trying experience, and some people may be more cut out for this career than others.
Nevertheless, there are certain education and training requirements when becoming a credentialed pain management physician. The team at Southwest Spine and Pain Center is sharing what it takes to become a pain doctor and how they became pain specialists themselves.
Like any other physician, pain doctors have to start their journey by completing four years of premedical schooling at a college or university. Graduating with a science-based degree (i.e. biology, chemistry, physics, etc.) is typically recommended for those wanting to pursue medical school. Once the undergraduate degree has been obtained, four years at medical school will result in either an MD (doctor of medicine) or an OD (doctor of osteopathy) for aspiring physicians.
After medical school, physicians may be required to apply for and received a license to practice medicine in their state. Additionally, a residency is required for those wanting to practice a medical specialty like family practice, internal medicine or general surgery (for example). Fellowships are optional for some doctors, but may be required for those wanting to become physicians in highly specialized fields. Board certification is another relatively optional endeavor—it all depends on the individual’s’ career goals!.