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New Release: Pain Squad App


The Pain Squad Video has been nominated as one of the best child health research videos by The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).  Vote for the Pain Squad Video by clicking on the thumbs up after watching the video.


Every year at SickKids, hundreds of kids are battling various forms of cancer. Pain is a common and distressing symptom of cancer and its treatment. A vital part of treatment is tracking the pain these kids experience. Patients and their parents are often asked to keep track of their pain in diaries to help health care providers better understand and treat their pain. In the past, this was done with pen and paper. But kids with cancer are not motivated to perform this unpleasant task.

Dr. Stinson, a nurse clinician scientist at SickKids, had the spark of an idea: use technology that kids love to turn the pain-reporting chore into a game. With funding from the C17 Council for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders, she set out to develop and test an iPhone-based pain diary for kids.  The idea seemed so compelling that a design firm called Cundari contributed $80,000 in-kind services to develop an iPhone app.


To motivate kids with cancer to complete the diary, Cundari and Stinson recruited support from two of Canada’s most popular police detective shows, Rookie Blue and Flashpoint, to provide actors, visuals and support for the reward system in the app.


Dr. Stinson called her app The Pain Squad. After rounds of pilot testing to make sure the diary is easy to use, acceptable to kids with cancer and a valid way to collect pain data, she launched the app for free on the Apple AppStore in the fall of 2014. Whereas pain reporting with paper diaries yielded compliance rates below 50%, and Web-based diaries yielded 70%, Pain Squad has boosted rates to more than 90% with these inspiring videos.


The result is that patients are “more in tune with their bodies,” she says. “One girl realized that she had new lower back pain, and typically she would not have talked to a doctor right away about it.” With the app, Stinson hopes that kids with cancer will be better able to monitor their pain and manage it more effectively.  Linsday Jibb, a doctoral student in Dr. Stinson’s lab is currently developing the Pain Squad + which will provide tailored strategies to help kids better manage their pain in real time wherever they are (at home, school, hospital).

Pain Squad App:  free on iTunes


A Note from Karen Irwin, CKN:

As a mother who lost a child to brain cancer, I can’t tell you how pleased I am that Jennifer had this “spark” of an idea.  If it had been around when my son was alive, and I wish it was, I know he would have loved to play the game and I would have loved to be able to keep better tabs on his comfort level. But aside from the obvious benefit of pain management, this app provides children who are sick and feeling lousy on a daily, monthly and sometimes yearly basis, with positive reinforcement, encouragement and boosts to their self-esteem through the supportive messages the actors are giving them.  In my experience, this is something that is desperately needed in these children’s lives.  To hear your favourite “cool” TV actor tell you on a daily basis that you are doing a great job, and that you’re an indispensable part of their team is absolutely priceless.  Thank you Jennifer and your team for providing this Pain Squad App for children who are struggling with cancer.



Jennifer StinsonDr. Jennifer Stinson is a Nurse Clinician Scientist in Child Health Evaluative Sciences and an Advanced Practice Nurse in the Chronic Pain Program at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto and an Associate Professor in Nursing and Pediatrics at the University of Toronto. Her major clinical research interests are in the area of pain and symptom management and the use of e-health (internet) and m-health (mobile phones) technologies to improve the assessment and management of pain and other symptoms in children with chronic illnesses. 






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