Our dedicated faculty members are the heartbeat of the Ingram School of Nursing (ISoN). The month of September is International Pain Awareness Month, Céline Gélinas, RN, PhD, shares her passion for improving patient care. Her past experience as a nurse in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) has inspired her to develop research in critical care and pain.


By Christina Kozakiewicz, Ingram School of Nursing
Why did you choose to become a nurse?

It has always been clear to me that I would pursue my career in the field of health. I chose to become a nurse because I wanted to be close to people and to help them. Nursing was attractive considering the numerous nursing roles and specialties that are available. After completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, I quickly knew that I wanted to be a nurse in the adult intensive care unit (ICU) because I felt comfortable dealing with a high level of stress and providing high acuity care to critically ill patients. In addition to providing patient care, getting to know the patient and the family well and establishing a therapeutic relationship with them was very rewarding for me.

What led you to pain assessment and measurement, and pain management (among your other) areas of interest? Why?

My bedside practice as an ICU nurse was my inspiration to pursue graduate studies in nursing to develop advanced knowledge and research skills. In the ICU, many patients cannot self-report their pain due to altered levels of consciousness and use of sedative agents or cannot provide a reliable self-report due to delirium. Therefore, pain management is highly challenging because often the nurse does not have access to the patient’s self-report, which is the gold standard measure of pain. When I worked as a bedside ICU nurse at the end of the 1990s, we had no alternative tool to assess pain in nonverbal patients and I felt powerless. On many occasions, I had to advocate for nonverbal patients who I thought were in pain but did not receive adequate treatment for pain relief. I felt that something had to be done.

From 2000 to 2004, I completed my PhD in Nursing at Université Laval during which I developed the Critical-Care Pain Observation Tool (CPOT), a behavioral scale to detect pain in critically ill adults unable to self-report. The CPOT was initially created in French and translated into English for further validation during my postdoctoral fellowship at McGill School of Nursing from 2005-2006. Since then, the CPOT has been translated into 16 other languages, and is used in several countries for ICU pain assessment in patients unable to self-report. The CPOT is also recommended in several guidelines and position statements, and my team and I are working on a project aimed at implementing best pain management guidelines into ICU practice. We are in the process of developing online modules in both French and English, which will be available on the ENA (Environnement Numérique d’Apprentissage) platform of the MSSS in the upcoming year. Other alternative pain measures need to be explored considering that, behaviors can only be observed in patients able to react to stimulation.

What motivated you to join the faculty at the Ingram School of Nursing?

McGill University and the Ingram School of Nursing attracted me because of their excellence in education and research. I also wanted to work in a bilingual environment and to establish new collaborations.

I am very grateful to the Newton Foundation (established by Mr. Richard Ingram) and to Dr. Susan E. French, the school director at the time of my recruitment, who offered me the best conditions and support to complete my postdoctoral fellowship and to launch my research career in nursing. The continued support available at ISON is essential to ensure the success of nursing research.

What do you love the most about your job?

I feel very fortunate to have a job that allows me to create and innovate in nursing and health care in collaboration with inspiring clinicians, educators, managers, researchers, and patient partners! This is made possible through my affiliation with the Centre for Nursing Research and the Lady Davis Institute of the Jewish General Hospital where I can work closely with clinical teams and where I have access to support from various resources (administrative assistant, research librarian, data analyst), and to allocated space for myself, my research staff and students. I also truly enjoy supervising graduate and postgraduate nursing students/fellows who are so passionate about nursing and improving patient care. I feel privileged to play a supervisor and mentor role with future leaders in nursing from whom I also learn a lot!

What are top three (doesn’t have to be three, could be one, could be ten!) things you want people to know about nursing in general? 

  • Every patient needs a nurse!
  • Nursing is about caring in the best interest of patients.
  • Nursing is based on strong science and human qualities.
  • A nurse has the power to make a difference in the health of their patients.
  • More specific to my field of expertise: Pain management is a human right and all patients should receive appropriate pain treatment.

Anything else you want to include?

Pursuing an academic nursing career and leading a research program is very challenging and demanding (in time, energy, and productivity), and can become overwhelming at times considering the very high competition in obtaining funding and the very low rate of success. In order for me to recharge my batteries, maintain my motivation, and remain in good physical and mental health, I share a passion with my oldest daughter as a horseback rider! This team sport allows me to develop a relationship with a horse, and to fully focus my mind on the here and now. Indeed, horses are very sensitive animals and can easily feel human’s stress. They rely on their rider to guide them during training and to keep the focus on important goals. Having a passion not related to my job has allowed me to achieve a work-life balance and to remain healthy.

September 20 2019