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Neonatal Therapy Guidelines

Van Sant, Ann F. PT, PhD, FAPTA

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doi: 10.1097/PEP.0b013e3181c071ca

This issue includes the much anticipated guidelines for therapists who would work with neonates in intensive care units (ICUs).1 We need to applaud the efforts of Sweeney et al who bring to us their combined years of experience and wisdom in creating these principles for professional practice.

I cannot think of a more complex subspecialty area within pediatric physical therapy. The often complicated conditions of the young infants being cared for in neonatal ICUs (NICUs) begs us to pause and remember that in ethical practice we are called to first, do no harm. It is important for us as pediatric physical therapists to recognize and advocate for appropriate training for those among us who aspire to participate in this area of practice. We must respect the needs of the youngest and most fragile of those who may benefit from our care.

Just as physicians and nurses prepare extensively to practice in the NICU, as physical therapists we need to be certain that our credentials reflect the respect that we have as a profession for this complex treatment environment and the specialized needs of the infants and their families.

Sweeney et al clearly articulate the path to professional competence for this area of practice. As pediatric therapists, we need to educate our colleagues in acute care settings about the need for those who undertake practice in NICUs to be appropriately trained. Few pediatric physical therapists work in acute care settings where NICUs are found. It is therefore important that we disseminate and advocate for the principles of care and training models incorporated in these guidelines not only among ourselves but also among our generalist colleagues. We will all benefit from this advocacy, but the benefit will be even greater for the infants and families receiving neonatal care.

Ann F. Van Sant, PT, PhD, FAPTA



1. Sweeney JK, Heriza CB, Blanchard Y. Neonatal physical therapy. Part I: Clinical competencies and neonatal intensive care unit clinical training models. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2009;21:296–308.
© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.