Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Dr. Britney Benoit -- supporting effective, parent-led pain management for infants during painful procedures

September 22nd, 2022
Dr. Britney Benoit

Contributing to our Health -- A Series About StFX Research Making A Difference In Our Communities

StFX is a leader in health innovation and entrepreneurship in Nova Scotia. In this ongoing series, we proudly shine a spotlight on our health research leaders, research and community health partnerships and their impact. For more on the Contributing to our Health series, click the link below.

Contributing to our Health series


“It’s my hope that the work I am doing contributes to the recognition of the powerful role of parents as partners in the health care of their children.” ~ Dr. Britney Benoit   

Dr. Britney Benoit, faculty member in the StFX Rankin School of Nursing, is working on research that she hopes will play a part in supporting effective, parent-led pain management for infants during painful procedures.

Could you tell me about your research program? 

My research program is centered on improving maternal and infant health care and outcomes by supporting parent-led interventions, such as breastfeeding and parent-infant skin-to-skin contact, as part of newborn care. I focus on testing and translating these accessible and non-invasive approaches as part of routine care of infants and families during times of pain, stress, and transition. My research program spans generation of new knowledge, synthesis of existing knowledge, and translation of knowledge into health system policy and practice. To do this, I work in collaboration and partnership with numerous stakeholders, including clinicians, health systems leaders and decision makers, and families.

Studies that I have ongoing are focused on parent-led interventions for pain management and fostering supportive environments for breastfeeding. Several key projects include: (1) Co-development of implementation interventions to support parent-led infant pain management in rural communities; and (2) Identification of barriers, facilitators, and context-driven strategies to support implementation of the Baby Friendly Initiative to promote breastfeeding in hospital and community care environments across Nova Scotia. 


What drew you to health research? What motivates or excites you about it? 

My mother is a Registered Nurse, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant, and Certified Perinatal Nurse with over three decades of experience in advocating for breastfeeding. There was no shortage of discussion of breastfeeding in our home – so I’ve come by working in this area honestly! 

When I started my education in human nutrition, and then went on to pursue graduate education in nursing, my career aspirations were to practice as a clinician in perinatal care. However, my first taste of research was completing my honours thesis with Dr. Doris Gillis in Human Nutrition here at StFX. While I didn’t start that experience planning to be a researcher (or even fully appreciating what a career in health research looked like), that experience opened my eyes to the opportunities for impact in health research. To be able to identify an issue, systematically work to answer complex questions and identify solutions with diverse teams, and then use that knowledge to directly impact clinical care excited me! I went on to pursue a Master’s degree and PhD in Nursing, working with experts in perinatal and neonatal nursing care, with the goal of an academic career doing work in this area. 


What impact do you hope it will have?

I want my research to play a part in all new parents to being supported to hold their baby in skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth and during any painful procedures throughout infancy. I also want families to be adequately supported in feeding and caring for their new baby. It’s my hope that the work I am doing contributes to the recognition of the powerful role of parents as partners in the health care of their children.  


Could you tell me a bit about yourself and any awards and accomplishments? 

I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Nutrition at StFX, my Master’s of Science (Applied) in Nursing at McGill University and my PhD in Nursing at Dalhousie University. During my PhD, I received a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship for my research examining the impact of breastfeeding on processing of pain in the newborn brain during clinically required painful procedures – which received the Dalhousie University Doctoral Thesis Award in Engineering, Medical Science, and Natural Sciences. I held the inaugural Health Sciences Research Chair with Nova Scotia Health here at StFX and have received funding from the QEII Foundation, Nova Scotia Health, and Research Nova Scotia to support my research program at StFX.   


What excites you about being a researcher at StFX?

One of the things that excites me about working in health research at StFX is the opportunity to partner with stakeholders, including healthcare providers and families, in this community. We’re working together to help inform and support best-practice perinatal care right in this community and in other rural communities across Nova Scotia – It’s exciting to have that opportunity to use my research skills to impact care! I also thoroughly enjoy being able to share my research with students at the undergraduate level, to help inspire them to pursue careers in nursing science. 


What’s something surprising about yourself that people wouldn’t know?

My favourite form of self-care is running. I ran the Boston Marathon this past April and am running the Berlin Marathon this fall. I could eat a bagel for every meal! 

Start Your Journey