Affiliations: [a] Program in Occupational Therapy, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA | [b] Department of Pediatrics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA | [c] School of Health Sciences, The Sage Colleges, Troy, NY, USA | [d] School of Occupational Therapy, Brenau University, Norcross, GA, USA | [e] Department of Physical Therapy, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA
Corresponding author: Roberta Pineda, Washington University School of Medicine, Program in Occupational Therapy, 4444 Forest Park Parkway, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA. Tel.: +1 314 286 1304; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abstract: 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 are 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.