The effect of personality traits on the assessment and management of pain

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology

First Committee Member

Carolyn Garwood - Committee Chair


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between personality characteristics (level of empathy and psychological type) and the pain assessment and management practices of nurses. It was postulated that nurses who possessed a high level of empathy would be more congruent with patients in rating pain intensity and pain relief and would administer liberal dosages of narcotic analgesics. Additionally, it was proposed that nurses who were intuition-preference types, rather than sensing-preference types, would be more accurate in assessing pain and liberal in administrating narcotics. Similarly, it was postulated that nurses who were feeling-preference types, rather than thinking-preference types, would be more accurate in pain perception and liberal in narcotic administration. The relationship between accuracy of pain intensity, accuracy of pain relief, and generosity of narcotic dosages and various nurse characteristics was also explored.The Empathy Subscale of the Barrett-Lennard Relationship Inventory (BLRI) was completed by 33 staff nurse (self-report form) and two supervisor nurses (observer-report form) employed in a major burn center. In addition, all of the staff nurses completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Using a visual analogue scale (VAS), each staff nurse rated pain intensity during 10 patient wound care procedures and then rated pain relief following the administration of a narcotic. During the encounters, ratings of pain intensity and pain relief were recorded independently by the respective 47 patients.Correlational, chi-square, and multiple regression analyses were utilized to examine the data. The results indicated that there were no significant differences in the manner in which pain experienced by burn patients was assessed or managed when the level of empathy (self-report or observer-report) or the psychological type of burn nurses was considered. Age, race, educational background, shift assignment, years in nursing, and years in burn nursing were not significantly associated with accuracy of pain perception or the liberal administration of narcotics, also. Though nurses appeared to perceive pain more accurately than previously reported, in general they tended to administer conservative amounts of narcotic analgesics to relieve pain.


Health Sciences, Nursing; Psychology, General; Psychology, Personality

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