While working as a pediatric nurse, Dr. Ann Marie McCarthy saw first-hand how distressing painful medical procedures are to young patients. Such procedures are common, with children in pediatric intensive care units experiencing 9 to 10 of them on average every day.
McCarthy is a professor and associate dean for research at the University of Iowa College of Nursing, with secondary appointments in the colleges of medicine and public health. The various roles she has had during her career, from staff nurse to nurse practitioner to psychologist to researcher, influenced her work and led her to her passion: identifying evidence-based methods to predict children’s distress during medical procedures and interventions to decrease that distress.
McCarthy and her team created the Distraction in Action Tool, a web-based tool for families and providers that will identify a child’s risk for distress and provide guidance on how to reduce that distress. The tool kit includes the predictive model, training videos, tips for parents and providers, individualized recommendations and distractors—links to books and games. McCarthy used results of several studies to develop the tool kit, including a behavioral analysis of what happens between a parent and child during a painful procedure. Along the way, her team developed a distraction coaching index and discovered genetic differences in how children feel pain when a topical anesthetic is used.
The Distraction in Action Tool is available on the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital website, along with information and resources for parents.