“SmerteLinjen” – The Pain line in Denmark

On April 1st 2014 a new telephone advice line for pain patients, their relatives and health personal has opened in Denmark. The Danish Ministry of Health has given to the group organizing this line some money to get it started (advertisement, education for the volunteers, mobile phones, etc.).
It is a five year old organisation in Denmark called “SmerteDanmark” or, translated, “PainDenmark” who got the idea to help pain patients this way. They work amongst other things to disseminate knowledge to the public about pain and to help people with chronic pain to conquer the highest level of function, activity and participation in daily life. The main action area this year is to get better education on pain for doctors and nurses and to get pain on the agenda during medical school.
There are several other advice lines in Denmark, but none where people with pain can get any kind of help or advice about their daily life with pain, or a place where they anonymously can talk to a not related person who is used to deal with pain problems. It is all on voluntary basis and at the moment the line is open 12 hours every week. There are 22 volunteers connected.
The volunteers, who manage the line, are pain nurses, social workers, psychologist students and pain patients.
The users of the line can see, on internet, which group is on duty at what time, and can then call when it is most convenient for them. Until now nurses receive most calls.
The users call to ask the nurses about many different things. It could be if their medicine is correct, if there are other options, how to discontinue their medicine, or if it is allowed according to Danish law to drive according to the medicine they take. We can only give them advice and ask them to consult their own GP. We are not allowed to change or describe new medicine. It could also be the suicidal patient who wants to make an end to life right now and whom we can advice to get help at the nearest psychiatric ward.
It could also be a relative to a terminal cancer patient who have questions about how they can improve the pain management at home and spend the last time with their relative in the best way, or how a son can help his old mother who suffers from dementia to get her pain medicine every day and at the right time.
We also have GP´s calling to get advice on how to titrate pain medicine or what other options there are. Nurses from hospitals/community nurses or palliative units, who needs to know what kind of treatment we would suggest in the Multidisciplinary pain centres.
The nurses, who answer the advice phones, do therefore need to have a very big knowledge on all kinds of pain. They need to know the latest updates on medicine and they must be prepared to have some very difficult and deep conversations. On the other hand it is very nice to experience, that we are able to help so many people, just by giving them a little advice when they need it the most.