Reassessing the assessment of pain: how the numeric scale became so popular in health care

The Wong-Baker pain scale (Courtesy of Wong-Banker) was developed in the pediatric hospital setting by a nurse and social worker 30 years ago in Oklahoma. Children helped design it, and it was intended as way to help better gauge their pain. “We gave them six circles about the size of a quarter in a line, and asked them to draw faces that would show being in no pain, being in a little more pain, and a little more pain, all the way to the worst pain you could imagine,” said co-creator Connie Baker. “We did it with about 50 kids and saw patterns.” The scale is often used with people who speak other languages, too. It’s an experience that most everyone has had at a doctor or hospital visit, where at some point, usually early on, the question ‘on a scale of 0-10, what’s your level of pain?’ comes up. Then, before the visit wraps up, you may be asked that question again. But the assessment of pain along with its treatment is being questioned right now. As is the way pain scales are applied in the exam room. While a numerical scale itself is not to blame, some […]