Mary Margo McCaffery, MS, RN-BC, FAAN, a pioneer in the field of pain management, died at age 79 from complications of pneumonia on January 8 in Marina Del Rey, California. McCaffrey was best known for her groundbreaking 1968 definition of pain, which has been embraced by both health care professionals and pain sufferers worldwide: “Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he says it does.”
McCaffery was born and raised in Corsicana, Texas. After receiving a bachelor of science in nursing from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and a master of science in nursing from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, she spent most of her life in Southern California. She was a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Nursing and manager of the pain management unit at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood, California. McCaffery became a consultant and educator on the nursing care of patients with pain in 1970, conducting lectures and consultations throughout the world. She developed educational videos and wrote several award-winning textbooks and articles on pain management, including many articles for AJN. With Betty R. Ferrell, McCaffery developed the Knowledge and Attitudes Survey Regarding Pain, which has been used in countless studies to assess health care teams’ understanding and beliefs about pain management. The findings of this research have guided educational efforts and led to improvements in pain management worldwide.
McCaffery was a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, served a 15-year appointment to the World Health Organization's Expert Committee on Cancer Pain Relief and Active Supportive Care, and provided critical support to the founding of the American Society for Pain Management Nursing. She was a founding member of the International Association for the Study of Pain and a long-standing member of the American Nurses Association, Sigma Theta Tau International, the American Pain Society, and the American Society for Pain Management Nursing.
McCaffery received numerous awards during her career, including the Linda Richards Award from the National League for Nursing for her pioneering work in the field of pain management, the first Elizabeth Narcessian Award for Outstanding Educational Achievements in the Field of Pain from the American Pain Society, the Nurse Exemplar Award from the American Society for Pain Management Nursing, the Richard S. Weiner Pain Education Award from the American Academy of Pain Management (now the Academy of Integrative Pain Management), and the Anthony J. Jannetti Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Health Care from the Academy of Medical–Surgical Nurses. McCaffery retired from lecturing in 2011 after publishing her last book on pain management, Pain Assessment and Pharmacologic Management, with her coauthor, Chris Pasero. She was predeceased by her daughter and her husband.—Chris Pasero, MS, RN-BC, FAAN (retired)