ACCM Distinguished Investigator Award

Kathleen A. Puntillo, RN, PhD, FAAN, FCCM, will be honored with the American College of Critical Care Medicine’s (ACCM) highest honor, the Distinguished Investigator Award, during the Society of Critical Care Medicine’s (SCCM) 48th Critical Care Congress in San Diego, California, USA.

The Distinguished Investigator Award honors clinical researchers for meritorious and pioneering work in critical care and for significantly contributing to the understanding of the diseases and treatments of critically ill and injured patients. Dr. Puntillo received this honor for her contributions to critical care, palliative care, and the public through her teaching, clinical practice, research, interprofessional teamwork, and volunteerism.

Dr. Puntillo is professor emeritus of nursing at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in San Francisco, California, USA. At UCSF, she was director of the Critical Care/Trauma Graduate Program for many years and founded UCSF’s Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program. Through her long-standing research program on pain in critically ill and injured patients, she pioneered pain research in the critical care setting. Her first major paper was a key landmark study on the pain experience of intensive care unit (ICU) patients, bringing their pain to the forefront of attention. This paper was instrumental in creating an entire field of investigation related to understanding and improving the assessment and treatment of pain in critically ill patients.

Dr. Puntillo’s research has also focused on 1) identifying other ICU patient symptoms such as thirst, anxiety, fear, confusion, and shortness of breath; 2) demonstrating how these symptoms can be assessed and treated; 3) assessing ICU family distress; and 4) instituting family-centered interventions. Her work in symptom management put her on the forefront of the ICU palliative care movement. The role of the ICU nurse in palliative care integration has been enhanced by Dr. Puntillo’s leadership in helping to design and conduct numerous theory- and research-based quality improvement projects. These national and international projects have advanced ICU nurses’ communication skills when they participate in crucial conversations with seriously ill ICU patients, their families, and ICU physicians.

As a result of her research and dissemination efforts through her work on national educational efforts and guidelines, processes to assess pain and treat pain symptoms have been systematically incorporated into acute care practice, including SCCM’s 2013 pain, agitation, and delirium guidelines and the subsequent ICU Liberation collaborative. Recently she participated in the update of the current pain, agitation, delirium, immobility, and sleep nterruption guidelines as well as SCCM’s 2017 familycentered care guidelines.

She has an extensive publication record. Her research has been funded by several national and international critical care professional societies, palliative care organizations, and by the National Institute for Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health. Through an Established Investigator Award from the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine, she led an international, prospective study of procedural pain. She has been an educator and consultant in pain, symptoms, and palliative care in ICUs.

She has received numerous awards for her research and contributions to critical care science from several professional organizations, including SCCM’s Grenvik Family Award for Ethics. She is a fellow of both the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN) and ACCM (FCCM).