Hospital Unveils Pain Scale That Goes to Eleven

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VANCOUVER, BC – In the movie This is Spinal Tap, guitarist Nigel Tufnel proudly shows off an amplifier that turns up to eleven instead of the standard ten.  Now, thanks to the hard work of a patient advocate at the Union Hospital of BC, patients can express themselves like rock stars.

Why don't you make 10 just that much higher? But ours go to eleven
Why don’t you make 10 just that much higher?  But ours goes to eleven.

Gemma Kane, who championed this effort, describes her inspiration: “I was doing my tour of the emergency department, looking for ways to improve our hospital.  The physician was tied up in the trauma bay and the remaining nurses were scrambling to get IV fluids and antibiotics running.  So I approached a group of patients who looked bored in the subacute area.”

What Kane uncovered was a systemic complaint about health care: professionals just not listening.

Ryan St. James, one of the patients interviewed by Kane, put it this way: “If only the docs knew how much pain I was in, I’m sure they’d take me seriously.  They’re hiding something and only giving it to folks who got it bad.  Well I’m telling you, I got it real bad.”

When asked to list what he had tried, St. James said his doctors have tested his blood multiple times and scanned him with whole-body MRIs, only to find everything was normal. He has also tried more drugs than he can remember but he is convinced there is another option that his doctors just are not telling him about.  St. James says his experience is not unique.

“My GP referred me to a support group for people living with pain.  Everyone there has pain that is at least nine out of ten at any time.  But usually it’s more like eleven or twelve.  And when things are bad, watch out, we break into the fifties here!”

Kane said that it was stories like this that inspired her to come up with a pain scale that goes up to eleven.  “Folks who found ten out of ten pain too constraining can more accurately express how they feel with an eleven.”

Staff at the Union Hospital will have to attend a mandatory training session outlining the new pain scale but Kane is not stopping there.

“Really, the scale only goes up to eleven because doctors are a conservative lot and don’t deal with change well.  You kind of have ease them into new things.  The next step is to raise the cap to twelve and eventually to do away with an upper limit altogether.  And then, if you say ‘It’s over nine thousand,’ then the doctor will have to write that into your chart and take it into consideration.”

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  • Show Comments

  • Avatar
    Glenn Drogemuller

    I agree 110% with mandatory training sessions on such matters.

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    Josh Goldman

    Great movie

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    Sean Cowan

    Mathew Smith

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    Zac Stickler


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    Joe Saxon

    “My pain is a 90. No, I’m being dramatic, it’s more like a 36.” Real encounter.

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    Julie Hanselman


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    Gloria Terpstra

    Or complained of their pain being so bad, then when we returned with their requested pain medication, they were fast asleep, sawing logs, and swore at us for waking them up!… lol

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    Victoria Beveridge

    Laughing too hard to know wwhat to say!

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    Ed Byrnes

    We tried that pain scale, but it was in danger of being trampled…by a dwarf….

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    All of whom also checked in for pain

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    with 10 gauge large bore needles.

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    Administrator Kane then awarded herself a $50,000 bonus for coming up with her brilliant idea and then took a month off at a luxurious executive spa ( at hospital expense)due to all the stress making this decision caused her- paid for by the hospital of course.
    Also, she added, pay for doctors and nurses would be cut…err…..”recalculated ” since they should have known better.

  • Avatar
    Anna Werkman Cotton

    Daniel Cotton

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    Ben Pearson

    Obviously an administrator or regulator came up with this idea

  • Avatar
    Mel Hollis

    I frequently tell patients that we don’t have the Nigel Tufnel pain scale.

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    Bob Crane

    But what if my pain is 20/10!!!! And so what if I’m laughing with my friends???

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    Christopher Befort

    HAHAHA!!!! Man spinal tap rule

  • Avatar
    Sarah Rushton

    I’ve been unable to watch that movie ever since Tony Hendra, who plays their manager, was accused by his daughter of sexual abuse. :(

  • Avatar
    Mark Eccles

    A comic about exploiting those who think 11 is better than 10.

  • Avatar
    Jennifer Simoneau

    But does a drummer die?

  • Avatar
    Cem Beygo

    Well… how many times have I heard 11 anyway. Now they will say 12… As they laugh and talk on their cell phones when they think no one is around listening before going in to assess… smh.

  • Avatar
    Justin Huang

    10 out of 10 pain? Well since it can’t get any worse I have my two students who will now race to see who can put the IV for your Dilaudid first! But I told them hand access only. Ready? GO!

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    Jeff Smith


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    Mary Peña

    I always thought 10 should be reserved for being on fire.

  • Avatar
    Jennifer Yanofsky

    OMG. Every day. Love this blog!!

  • Avatar
    JamesandCarrie Botts

    When the pain is above 10 the dilaudid dosing begins to drop!

  • Avatar
    Bill Clark

    The Dilaudid sounds better in doubly

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    Samantha Nimmo

    Guys, go easy! They wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. After all they DO have an extremely high pain threshold. If you don’t believe them just ask their 5 visitors.

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    Helen Aanstoos

    Decibel levels must also be recorded and included as the 6th vital sign.

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    Sean Dos Santos

    I am rating my pain at a 10 on the scale yet I can talk and laugh on my cellphone. Where’s my Dilaudid?

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    Erik Pitner

    In a related study, the majority of patients who rated their pain above 10 did so only after being woken from a sound sleep or asked to put away their cell phones and snacks.

  • Avatar
    Joann Larkins
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    Kelley Hughes Reep

    For overachievers

  • Avatar
    Joanie Sapienza


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