The purpose of this study was to identify the role of physical and occupational therapists in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and to determine the extent to which standard practice of these professionals in the NICU conforms to the best practice standards identified in the literature. This study was conducted in two phases. Phase 1 examined the global role of physical and occupational therapists in the NICU. Phase 2 focused more specifically on the therapists themselves by examination of: direct and indirect service provision; treatment approaches and techniques; skills; experience and educational levels; and other administrative information. Phase 1 used a survey mailed to 709 NICUs nationwide, and an interview was used in phase 2 to collect data from a group of 20 randomly selected physical and occupational therapists who responded to the initial survey.
Discrepancies existed between the standards of best practice presented in the limited literature and the current practice standards as reported by the participants in this study. Additional training, continuing education, communication, and research are necessary to insure that therapists can achieve a level commensurate with standards of best practice when treating infants in the NICU.
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