Title

Effects of Patient’s Race on Pain Perception and Treatment in Nursing Students

Date of Award

5-2021

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Academic Program

Biological Sciences BS

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Elena Stepanova, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

Psychology

Abstract

This study investigates whether a patients’ race affects how nursing students evaluate the patient’s pain. Undergraduate and graduate nursing students (N = 117) recruited from the University of Southern Mississippi School of Nursing were presented with a clinical vignette detailing a 35-year-old man in the emergency department presenting with extreme left shoulder pain. They were randomly assigned to either a Black or a White patient condition. The patient’s race was revealed through an attached photograph, with each condition represented by one of eight unique photographs. Participants evaluated the patient’s current pain level and time to be triaged; the patient’s pain that attributes to medical or psychosocial factors; their trust in the patient’s description of his own pain; levels of pain severity; and how likely the patient to be a drug seeker. There were no significant differences between the two conditions (Black vs. White patient) for all the outcome variables (all |ts| < 1.41, ps > .16). When race of participants was entered as a factor in 2 (race of patient: Black vs. White) x 2 (race of provider: Non-White vs. White) ANOVAs, no significant effects involving race of patient and no significant race of patient x race of provider interactions emerged for each of the outcome variables (all ps > .1). These results suggest that future nursing providers trained at the University of Southern Mississippi do not exhibit racial biases in evaluations of chronic pain. Such findings inspire hope that racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare can be eliminated.

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