Inventor of Slogan ‘Pain is the 5th Vital Sign’ Now Concedes Pain is Actually Not a Vital Sign

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NEW YORK, NY – Last night, in an emotional interview with Dateline NBC, Lisa Washington, who famously coined the term “Pain is the 5th Vital Sign,” conceded that pain is actually not a vital sign.

A crying Washington announced that the idea came to her in a dream and she latched onto it: “It just sounded so good and important (sobbing)… This was my chance to be famous.”

Vital Sign
Anybody see the pain scale on the monitor?

Most health care providers know that standard vital signs are blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature.  Somehow Washington was able to sneak her idea into numerous medical organizations since it sounded “so important.”  Hospitals bought into her idea across the country.  Posters were made, lectures were given, medical records were updated to include a 5th space for another vital sign, and Washington was catapulted into the spotlight.

All this came crashing down when a few medical professionals started questioning Washington’s work.  In particular after the New York Times ran an article on a 10/10 pain patient, people began to see the flaws of her campaign.

“It was all made up… pain isn’t the 5th vital sign, it isn’t even a vital sign,” said Washington.  “I just wanted it to sound important and get a raise, so I lumped it in the vital sign category.  I meant no disrespect to the true vital sign parameters.”

Pulse oximetry was excited to hear that pain was being removed as the 5th vital sign.  “I hope I can finally move up from the 6th spot now,” said pulse oximetry.  “After that I hope to take on temperature and maybe even heart rate.”  Pulse oximetry was not deemed important by hospital bureaucrats who rarely see patients, but instead answer complaints by patients, the true indicator of good care.  Skeptics wonder if the bureaucrats will fully cave.

Urine output, CVP monitor, and EKG tracing were also hoping to make a run on the pain spot at the time of publication.

  • Doktor Schnabel

    Plague doctor from 1622 who practices blood letting and medical satire. My beak has mint leaves and straw to protect myself from the it looks good.

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    In all seriousness, weight deserves the 5th spot.

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    Margi Dalgleish Roth

    Oximetry definitely deserves the 5th spot.

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    Suzette Chardòn Cotto

    Yes!!!!!!!! I NEED MORE PRESSURE is what he would be saying Shonda Reavis Fraire. Don’t forget the clip board.

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    Bryan Szalwinski


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    Shonda Reavis Fraire

    Awww, Suzette Chardòn Cotto, I can hear T-Roy now telling you he can’t oxygenate without a MAP of at least 60 as he frantically runs his fingers through his hair!!LOL

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    Aimee Kurio

    Neonatal tracing, PLEASE DON’T treat. Except for a little O2 :)

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    Maria Westbeld Thomas

    Kevin….. You smarty ;) didn’t even notice that!

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    Yes it is a neonate! I’ll set up the monitor for 5 waves next time and include the ‘pain’ waveform.

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    Lynda Mahoney

    Pain is subjective and unable to be measured using a reliable scientific process. Therefore, pain is NOT a vital sign.

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    Kevin Hatton

    The art line is listed as a UAP (umbilical arterial line). This is most likely taken from a neonate and the HR, BP, and RR more closely match the expected vitals of a neonate.

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    Jenifer Christensen

    With that bp, pt needs synchronized cardioversion.

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    Mischele Pamuk Lewis

    This pt needs rapid response. Yikes! Or transfer to the ECU.

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    At least the 5th vital sign is under control

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    Diana Lenore Miller

    that person needs adenosine.

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    Tamara Dickson Langley

    I’m thinking pain is not the priority here……I agree, this one is circling the drain!

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    Maria Westbeld Thomas

    Someone’s circling the drain very shortly…… Nice HR.

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    Sarah Kohrmann

    Those are some rough looking vital signs

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    “Pulse oximetry was excited to hear that pain was being removed as the 5th vital sign” LOL

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