[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
April 17, 1991

Burn Patients Confront Pain, Fear, Loss of Control

JAMA. 1991;265(15):1922. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460150014003

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


A TOUCH, a brush against a sheet, even an air current, can cause burn patients pain. The searing kind of pain, caused when partial-thickness burns leave nerves exposed, punctuates the constant, underlying pain experienced by the patient.

But physical pain is only one of many personal challenges that burn patients must confront. Psychological factors are so critical for burn patients that a handful of burn centers, including the US Army Institute of Surgical Research (USAISR), Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Tex, employ a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist on their staff.

"Fires happen so fast," says Thomas M. Summers, RN, MEd, MSN, a US Army lieutenant colonel and the specialist at USAISR. "In just a short period of time this person moves from being an independent person to somebody who is 100% dependent on other people. The frustration, helplessness, powerlessness that comes out of that is just awesome sometimes. It's more