Kim Francis PhD, RN, PHCNS-BC is a Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist for the Massachusetts General Hospital Obstetric and Neonatal Service, and an Assistant Professor for the MGH Institute of Health Professions. This spring, Kim Francis received the inaugural Jeanette Ives Erickson Nursing Research Award, a new honor for nurse researchers sponsored by the MGH Research Institute. 

Extremely Low Gestational Age Infants' Pain Response

In addition to her role as a Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist at MGH, Infant Brain Center team member Kim Francis is leading a new research study that investigates the use of Infrared Thermography as a tool for objectively identifying pain in extremely low gestational age infants.

“Preterm infants may experience hundreds of potentially painful procedures during their hospitalization, however, recognizing this pain in preterm infants remains an area where more evidence is needed” says Kim Francis, explaining that neurological immaturity, a lack of validated instruments and knowledge of the pain response complicate the assessment and measurement of pain in these infants.

Untreated pain can have lifelong effects for these infants, including alterations in vital signs that may result in altered cardiorespiratory function, increases in both oxygen needs and intracranial pressure, and alterations in neuronal pathways, stress systems, cognition and motor performance. Therefore, improving pain assessment measures and in turn, the clinical management of pain in this patient population is a high priority in neonatology.

Accordingly, the goal of this pilot research study is to determine if Infrared Thermography can be used as a new, low cost, noninvasive method that can objectively identify pain from skin temperature changes to improve the management of pain and improvement of care for MGHfC’s most vulnerable patient population.