We explored provider attitudes about and experiences in chronic pain management for university student populations. Our central question was: “What do providers at a large university campus health care center experience in the process of offering pain management services?” We explored instrumental, behavioral, emotional, and attitudinal dimensions of our participants’ experiences using a qualitative case study approach. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with 10 health care providers at the student health center for a large research university in Florida. Interviews captured providers’ background and experiences in providing pain management to student patients with diverse needs. We used grounded theory techniques for data analysis (i.e., collaborative content analysis with open coding). Data reflect differences in perceptions of chronic pain prevalence and palliation best practices. We identified five themes: different perceptions of chronic pain prevalence, awareness of painful conditions, palliation as a contested process, importance of communication, and multidimensional perspectives. Responses varied by training, specialization, experience, and sociodemographics. Our findings mirror the broader literature on pain management. We outline priorities for further research in university health care settings, and suggest participatory strategies for translating associated findings into targeted plans for clinical care improvement.


Pain Management, Adolescents, Young Adults, Health Care, University Clinics, Medical Providers, Case Study

Author Bio(s)

Alexandra "Xan" Nowakowski is an Assistant Professor of Geriatrics and Behavioral Sciences at the Florida State University College of Medicine. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: xnowakowski@fsu.edu.

Kaitlyn Barningham, Charlyn Buford, and Martin Laguerre are graduates of the Master of Public Health degree program at Florida State University. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: keb10c@my.fsu.edu, cdb10g@my.fsu.edu, and ml14y@my.fsu.edu.

J. Sumerau is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Tampa. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: jsumerau@ut.edu.


We are grateful to the clinicians and staff who participated in and facilitated recruitment for our study. We also give thanks to our peer reviewers and editors for their helpful feedback in revising this manuscript.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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