Neonatal therapy: A survey of current practice

Roberta Pineda, Sara DeGaetano, Margaret Kindra, Theresa Hand, Jenene Craig, Alicia Fernandez-Fernandez, Debra Collette
Journal of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine 2019 August 23

BACKGROUND: Although considered an advanced area of practice, there has been insufficient standardization in clinical training and preparedness for occupational therapists (OTs), physical therapists (PTs), and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) practicing in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The first step in developing a neonatal therapy certification process was to conduct a practice analysis.

PURPOSE: To describe: 1) the collection of OTs, PTs, and SLPs working in NICUs, 2) educational and professional preparation to practice in the NICU, and 3) interest in neonatal therapy national certification.

METHODS: An online survey of 468 neonatal therapists was completed in 2015-2016.

RESULTS: There were 208 (47%) participants who were OTs, 140 (32%) PTs, and 94 (21%) SLPs. Among respondents, 187 (50%) neonatal therapists had a clinical doctorate, and 143 (40%) therapists practiced for > 5 years prior to entering NICU practice. There were 299 (88%) therapists who believed oversight and accountability in the NICU is highly important, and 329 (98%) therapists were interested in a neonatal therapy certification program.

CONCLUSIONS: Advanced training and skills of neonatal therapists are vital to ensure safe, effective and evidence-based practice. Insufficient standardization in training and variable adherence to education and training guidelines provided credibility for the creation of a neonatal therapy national certification process, which has now been implemented.

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