Improving pediatric pain management

Grad profile: Amanda Bettle, Faculty of Health Professions

- October 5, 2015

Masters of Nursing grad Amanda Bettle. (Danny Abriel photo)
Masters of Nursing grad Amanda Bettle. (Danny Abriel photo)

Becoming a parent helped bring a fresh perspective to how Amanda Bettle approached her work as a pediatric nurse.

The Alberta native, a practicing nurse at the IWK Health Centre on the Hematology Oncology unit, has just completed her Master of Nursing degree at Dalhousie, and is a wife and mom of two young children. It’s been a long and busy road, but Amanda wouldn’t change a thing.

“I had always wanted to do something in the medical field, but wasn’t quite sure what that would be,” she says. “Once I chose something and learned more about what a nurse actually is, I grew to love it and didn’t want to switch to anything different.”

Born into a military family that moved around frequently, Amanda first found herself on the East Coast to pursue a Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of New Brunswick, and then moved to Halifax in 2002. After several years of working at the IWK as a Registered Nurse, she drew on her experiences at the hospital in deciding to study towards her master’s.

“Most of my career had been spent with the Hematology Oncology population, so I wanted to do some research that could help us learn and gain some more information that we could use to potentially improve our practice,” she says.

Helping parents manage their child's pain

Amanda chose to focus her research on children with leukemia, the most common pediatric cancer diagnosis. While only some children with leukemia experience pain on a daily basis, all of them will experience multiple sources of pain during their treatment. Amanda’s time in the Hematology Oncology unit made her acutely aware of the important role parents play as their child’s primary caregiver outside of the hospital.

“There’s not a whole lot that’s known about how parents learn how to manage their child’s pain, if they recognize their child’s pain, and if they efficiently manage their child’s pain,” she says. “I wanted to focus my research on understanding what parents are doing already to manage their child’s pain and to recognize if there are any areas where we can improve our practice.”

Her research shows that the health-care system does a fairly good job involving parents in teaching and learning around their children’s pain, but also identified ways to better support those parents and improve practice.  
Given her role as a parent, Amanda is thankful for the funding that she received from Dalhousie, the Canadian Institute of Health Research and the IWK to go towards her studies and research. The funds she was able to access allowed her to work part-time as a nurse and balance time between her research and her family obligations.

“I feel like being a parent almost makes me a better nurse because I can kind of feel where these parents are coming from. Although I don’t have the same experience as them, I can try to understand where they’re coming from and empathize with them a bit better.”

While Amanda’s long term plans include eventually completing the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program through the University of Toronto, she’s opted to take some time off to spend with her family. In the meantime, she hopes to seek out an advanced practice role where she can apply some of the skills she learned throughout her master’s.

This article is part of our series of profiles on the graduates of the Class of 2015. These profiles are also published in the Convocation Keepsake which is distributed at Convocation ceremonies. For more information (including live webcasts), visit the Convocation website.


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