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Release: April 29, 2002

UI nursing study of children and pain will teach parents distraction techniques

University of Iowa College of Nursing researchers will conduct a four-year, randomized clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of training parents to be distraction coaches during their child's medical procedures.

Principal investigator Ann Marie McCarthy, Ph.D., UI associate professor of nursing, and co-principal investigator Charmaine Kleiber, Ph.D., an advanced practice nurse with Children's Hospital of Iowa at UI Hospitals and Clinics, received a $2.1 million grant from National Institute of Nursing Research (NIH) for the study, "Predicting Children's Response to Distraction from Pain." This is the first study to concurrently examine the interactions among behavioral, situational, biological and genetic factors that may influence children's responses to medical procedures.

One of the researchers' hypotheses is that training parents on how to effectively distract their children during painful procedures will result in children displaying less distress than when parents have not been trained. While it is expected that most parents and children will respond positively to the training program provided, some children and parents may need alternative interventions to help them cope with painful procedures.

"The results of the research will be used to match child temperament and behavior and parent anxiety and parenting style with appropriate pain management techniques," McCarthy said.

McCarthy and Kleiber have collaborated for more than a decade to find better ways to manage children's pain. Their focus continues to be on children's response to pain during painful procedures such as I.V. insertion. There is evidence that children who experience inadequate pain control during medical procedures may have increased difficulty coping with future procedures. Research is needed to determine which children would benefit from nonpharmacological interventions, such as distraction, and under what circumstances.

The study involves multiple sites, bringing together researchers from Children's Hospital of Iowa, Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines and Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital of St. Louis University in Missouri.

The UI College of Nursing is part of the UI health sciences campus and provides nursing education at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels. The college provides clinical experience and research opportunities that enhance the educational experience. Students graduate prepared to respond to the needs of the public and the general health and well-being of the communities they serve.