Newswise — Until a decade ago, nurses had limited means to effectively measure whether a premature infant was in pain. Loyola University Health System (LUHS) neonatal intensive care nurse practitioner Patricia Hummel, NNP-BC, RN, cared for these fragile patients and became determined to develop a reliable tool that would evaluate pain and sedation levels to help improve care for babies.

Hummel worked with her colleagues to evaluate behavior patterns in infants experiencing painful situations. She then developed a standardized tool to assess the babies and completed research that confirmed the reliability and validity of the tool. This method is known now as the N-PASS© tool (Neonatal Pain and Sedation Scale).

Hummel was honored today with the National Magnet ® Nurse of the Year Award in New Knowledge, Innovations & Improvements for developing this tool. This is one of the nation’s most prestigious nursing awards, which the American Nurses Credentialing Center gives to a nurse who has made significant contributions to patient care. Hummel accepted this award at the ANCC National Magnet Conference® in Baltimore. She was joined at the conference by more than a dozen LUHS nurses.

“I developed this tool from a concern I had that the health-care system did not have a consistent way to assess pain in these helpless patients,” Hummel said. “It is our job as nurses to use our skills and intuition to ask questions and to strive for what is best for our patients. I am honored to accept this award for this work and look forward to continuing to adapt the tool for other patients and clinicians.”

Today the tool is used across the United States and in at least 20 other countries. Hummel continues to work on this application in new clinical settings. She is now testing the tool in infants and toddlers, and is mentoring an adult trauma ICU nurse’s work to adapt and test the tool in non-communicative adults.

“Pat’s compassion for these infants along with her hard work and intellectual curiosity led to an innovation that has changed the way we care for many of our most vulnerable patients,” said Paula Hindle, MSN, MBA, RN, vice president, health-care services and chief nurse executive, LUHS. “She deserves this prestigious recognition because her work has had broad applications in assisting health-care providers in caring for premature infants across the globe.”

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