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Ubiquitous iPad may prove effective pain tool

News story

Any medical professional will know that the hospitalisation and medical treatment of a child can be a traumatic experience for the child and their parents/carer, along with their treating health professionals, and anything that can distract a child from their pain and distress is welcome.

Jade Ferullo is researching the efficacy of a tablet computer to distract children while undergoing painful medical procedures.

Twenty-first century technology, in the form of the humble and ubiquitous tablet computer, may just offer an answer to effectively distracting a highly distressed child. Master of Philosophy student, and registered nurse at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children (PMH), Jade Ferullo, is researching the efficacy of a tablet computer (iPad), to distract children while undergoing painful medical procedures, and the impact this distraction has on their distress and pain.

Ms Ferullo has been awarded the Advancing the Nursing Profession Fellowship, from the Nursing and Midwifery Office, Department of Health, for her research project titled, ‘At their fingertips: The effects of child-led distraction using a tablet computer on children’s distress and pain during painful medical procedures; a randomised controlled trial’.

“Nurses have a fundamental role in preventing and reducing patients’ pain and distress and advocating for patients and families, particularly paediatric patients due to their inability or limited ability to express their feelings and emotions verbally,” Ms Ferullo said.

“Medical procedures, particularly those involving a needle, are reported by children as one of the most common sources of fear, distress and pain. Repeated or unrelieved trauma associated with distress and pain can lead to significant emotional consequences, including paediatric medical traumatic stress disorder.”

Despite extensive evidence supporting the benefits of pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions to reduce and minimise pain and subsequent distress, when undergoing medical treatment, Ms Ferullo believes there is a gap between theory and practice, and evidence-based approaches are not incorporated into everyday practice.

“Non-pharmacological approaches are a convenient, safe, cost-efficient, feasible and readily available alternative in minimising distress and pain effectively and efficiently,” Ms Ferullo said.

“With modern technological advances, in particular the introduction of tablet computers, there is now the opportunity to combine a variety of different developmental level distractions. These include music/voice, games, virtual reality, movies, video clips and humour in the one portable, convenient device.”

Ms Ferullo was honoured and delighted to be awarded the grant, which will enable the purchase of consumables and a tablet computer to conduct her study. She plans to begin recruitment and data collection at PMH in coming weeks.

“I would like to extend my gratitude for all the support that has been provided by the Nursing and Midwifery Office, Curtin University, Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, my supervisors and of course my husband, family and friends,” Ms Ferullo said.

Ms Ferullo began her nursing career in 2011, when she completed her graduate program at Fremantle Hospital and Health Service. She worked on D4, the children’s ward, where she developed her passion for paediatric nursing. During her graduate year, she completed the Graduate Certificate in Clinical Nursing. In 2013, Ms Ferullo moved to PMH and completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Paediatric Nursing. In 2015, she was accepted at Curtin to undertake a Master of Philosophy in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine. Ms Ferullo plans to continue studying, and complete a PhD in paediatric nursing.