Martha A. Q. Curley, RN, PhD, FAAN

2012 Distinguished Research Lecturer

Dr. Martha A. Q. Curley, a premier scientist in the field of pediatric critical care nursing, has been selected as AACN’s 2012 Distinguished Research Lecturer. She is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia, and a nurse scientist in critical care and cardiovascular nursing at Children’s Hospital Boston. 

Her studies have high international impact and are considered standard setting. Her transdisciplinary collaborative efforts have enriched multiple programs of research in pediatric critical care. Her work has informed the practice of caring for critically-ill pediatric patients supported on mechanical ventilation, has provided better tools to measure important phenomena of concern in pediatrics, and has illuminated relationship-based care when partnering with parents of critically-ill children. As importantly, she has carved out the disciplinary and interprofessional role of the nurse scientist in clinical care and has successfully mentored many clinicians in research methods at numerous children’s hospitals.

Recipient of more than $40 million in federal research award grants — including $15 million as principal investigator — she has led multi-site clinical trials in pediatric critical care, developed instruments to better assess patient status and risk and tested interventions to support parent needs in the pediatric ICU. Her current work includes investigating better ways to manage sedation for children on life-saving ventilators as the principal investigator for RESTORE, a five-year multi-site clinical trial funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The $12 million RESTORE grant, the largest in Penn Nursing’s history, supports one of the most comprehensive studies ever undertaken in pediatric critical care, recruiting more than 2,750 patients in 31 of the most prestigious pediatric hospitals in the United States.

Dr. Curley’s passion for the practice of pediatric critical care nursing centers her research. Her studies have evolved from describing patterns of weaning from mechanical ventilation in young children recovering from acute hypoxemic respiratory failure to interventional studies that concentrate on how to best care for this vulnerable patient group. This research has specifically focused on nurse-implemented interventions including prone compared with supine patient positioning, endotracheal extubation readiness testing, and goal-directed sedation management.

Over the past decade, Dr. Curley has developed and disseminated core metrics in the field of pediatrics. Available in at least six languages, the Braden Q scale predicts pediatric pressure ulcer risk. The State Behavioral Scale is a sedation assessment instrument for infants and young children supported on mechanical ventilation. The Withdrawal Assessment Tool – version 1 instrument describes opioid and benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms in acutely-ill infants and children. The Individualized Numeric Rating Scale is a pain assessment instrument for nonverbal children with profound intellectual disability.

Building upon early work on the mutual participation model of care, parent experience of highly technical therapy, and parents of children with severe antecedent disabilities perspectives on pediatric ICU hospitalization, Dr. Curley has now completed a longitudinal study that evaluated a major change in clinical practice to provide parents the option to be present during their child’s invasive procedure(s) and/or resuscitation(s). The project pioneered the development, implementation, and evaluation of a policy change that includes a parent-liaison role. The overall goal of the research was to decrease variation in clinician practice, to help multidisciplinary staffs feel better prepared to provide parents more options during stressful events, and to help parents feel well cared for during these tragic events.

A past AACN leader, Dr. Curley helped to develop the AACN Synergy Model for Patient Care, a framework that strongly bases nursing care on patient and family needs. Integration of the Synergy Model into AACN Certification Corporation credentialing programs links clinical practice with patient outcomes. Her publications include the award-winning and widely used books, Synergy: The Unique Relationship Between Nurses and Patients and Critical Care Nursing of Infants and Children.

Dr. Curley received a diploma in nursing from Springfield Hospital School of Nursing, Massachusetts; a BS degree from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; an MSN from Yale University, New Haven, Conn. and a PhD from Boston College.

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