Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Barbara Rakel

Professor Barb Rakel, PhD, RN, FAAN, was recently awarded an Independent Grant for Learning and Change (IGLC) from the American Pain Society (APS) and Pfizer for her research project, which is titled “Development of an Electronic Prescription Bundle of Nonpharmacological Strategies for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain.”

Dr. Rakel will be working with Dr. Kathleen Sluka (Physical Therapy, Carver College of Medicine) on this innovative project that aims to put nonpharmacological pain strategies on the same level as pharmacological-based methods.

Other College of Nursing faculty collaborators on the project include Drs. Stephanie Gilbertson-White, Keela Herr, and Toni Tripp-Reimer.

“We would not have been funded if it wasn’t for their help, as well as Dr. Herr’s guidance on Implementation Science,” noted Rakel.

The following excerpt is from the project’s abstract:

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain suggest nonpharmacological strategies are preferred treatment choices, and if opioids are used they should be combined with nonpharmacological therapy. At the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC), more than 14,700 outpatients with chronic musculoskeletal pain were seen in the last year. Of these outpatients, 30% were seen by primary care providers. Our overall goal is to develop, implement, evaluate and disseminate the integration of two nonpharmacological pain treatments to facilitate multimodal, interdisciplinary care for adults with chronic musculoskeletal pain at UIHC, addressing the strategy of service and delivery. 

By leveraging electronic health records as well as specific strategies from Roger’s Diffusion of Innovations model, Dr. Rakel’s research team intends to help providers quickly and accurately prescribe exercise and/or TENS for patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain as part of an individualized plan of care in an integrated health care delivery system.

The APS and Pfizer IGLC collaboration created $2 million in funding opportunities for research that focuses on improving care for individuals with chronic pain. Its intent is to bring to light the topic of chronic pain and fund projects which address the problems and objectives as articulated in the National Pain Strategy. 

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The American Pain Society is a multidisciplinary community that brings together a diverse group of scientists, clinicians, and other professionals to increase the knowledge of pain and transform public policy and clinical practice to reduce pain-related suffering. More information can be found at