Martha A.Q. Curley, PhD, RN, FAAN
As a leading clinical researcher in nurse-implemented therapies for acute respiratory failure in critically ill pediatric patients, Martha A.Q. Curley’s work has transformed many aspects of pediatric critical care.
Dr. Curley has received more than $18 million in federal research grants and served as principal or co-investigator on another $30 million in federally-funded research, including serving as the principal investigator on major clinical trials in pediatric critical care.
“It’s really exciting to see the patient and family impact of my work in clinical settings across the globe.”
- PhD, Boston College, 1997
- MSN , Yale University, 1987
- BS , University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1985
- Diploma in Nursing, Springfield Hospital School of Nursing, 1973
Thanks to Dr. Curley’s collaborative research, providers worldwide have tools to assess critically ill children. These include the Braden QD scale for predicting pressure ulcers, the State Behavioral Scale for sedation of infants and young children on mechanical ventilators, and the Withdrawal Assessment Tool for opioid and benzodiazepine withdrawal. Dr. Curley also developed the Individualized Numeric Rating Scale to assess pain levels in children with severe intellectual disabilities who cannot speak.
Environments for Healing in Pediatric ICUs
Currently, Dr. Curley is investigating how nurses can create environments conducive to healing in pediatric ICUs. Methods being studied include supporting parents of critically ill children, embedding a child’s normal sleep patterns and circadian rhythms into his/her hospitalized day, and modulating light and noise in the ICU to help children feel comforted.
Dr. Curley helped to develop the American Association of Critical Care Nursing’s Synergy Model for Patient Care, which bases nursing care on the needs of the patient and family. This model is now integrated into nursing curricula and the association’s credentialing programs, linking evidence-based clinical practice with patient outcomes.
Opportunities to Learn and Collaborate at Penn Nursing
Undergraduates become researchers in Dr. Curley’s Nursing 389: Clinical Inquiry. With her current research on recreating environments conducive to healing in pediatric intensive care patients, students learn to conduct systematic literature reviews on light, sleep, and circadian rhythms. They engage in research tasks such as testing a circadian rhythm questionnaire for families, because the first step in maintaining a child’s normal routine is discovering it. They also visit the pediatric critical care unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to collect data directly from patients and nurses.
Dr. Curley works frequently with doctoral students interested in pediatric critical care, including on cognitive follow-up related to post intensive care syndrome. In addition to advising Penn Nursing graduate students, Dr. Curley sits on doctoral committees for students at other U.S. and global universities. Her secondary appointment at Penn medical school allows Dr. Curley to work across disciplines, sharing data from her clinical trials on critical care and strengthening ties with providers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, whose work benefits from and informs her research.
Selected Career Highlights
- American College of Critical Care Medicine Distinguished Investigator Award, Society of Critical Care Medicine
- Distinguished Research Lecturer Award, American Association of Critical Care Nurses
- Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame, Sigma Theta Tau
- Selected as one of “90 Nurses for 90 Years,” Yale University School of Nursing
- Principal investigator, RESTORE clinical trial funded by National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute
- Principal investigator, Pediatric prone clinical trial funded by National Institute of Nursing Research
- Elected for membership to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), formerly the IOM