American Academy of Emergency Medicine

AAEM’s Pain Guidelines Adopted by Largest Hospital Group in Rhode Island

December 30, 2013

Contact: Laura Burns

MILWAUKEE — Misuse of opioid medications has been on the rise throughout the country. Opioid medications are a type of narcotic medication used to treat pain. However, as the frequency of opioid prescriptions increases, non-medical use, addiction, drug-related emergency department visits, and death have significantly increased as well.

The dangers of prescribing opioid medications extend beyond the individual patient and may adversely impact public health. In light of this, AAEM developed guidelines to provide the emergency clinician with recommendations regarding the safe, effective, and ethical practice of pain management in the emergency department setting.

Now, Lifespan Hospital Group, based in Providence, RI, has adopted a set of prescribing guidelines based on those set forth by the Academy.

According to a December 17th article from the Providence Journal, “The guidelines were first adopted at Newport Hospital earlier this year and were put in place at Rhode Island and Miriam hospitals on Oct. 31. The state Health Department is not aware of other hospitals with similar guidelines but intends to promote them statewide.”1

Over half of the patients who come to the emergency department (ED) list pain as their chief complaint, or most serious symptom they are experiencing. Emergency clinicians vary in how they manage their patient’s pain, especially with respect to the use of opioid medications.

AAEM president, William T. Durkin, Jr., MD MBA FAAEM notes that, “Prescription drug abuse has become a rampant problem. Emergency physicians are confronted with this on a daily basis. In response to the needs of our members, we devised a policy regarding prescribing narcotics in the emergency departments. It is heartening to see that this policy has been used as a template for the largest health system in the state.”


The American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) is the specialty society in emergency medicine today. As an organization, AAEM believes achievement of board certification represents the only acceptable method of attaining recognition as a specialist in emergency medicine.

For more information, please visit www.aaem.org or call 800-884-2236.

1. Fryer F. Lifespan adopts new guidelines for emergency-room painkillers. Providence Journal. http://m.providencejournal.com/projo/db_320470/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=AwmXSOn9. Published December 18, 2013. Accessed December 19, 2013.