Objective: The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is an area in which occupational therapists require specialized advanced training and skills. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the nature of current practice among occupational therapists in NICU settings, their training, and their opinions regarding educational experiences necessary for NICU work.
Method: One hundred seventy-four NICU occupational therapists completed a survey questionnaire designed to elicit information about these issues.
Results: The majority of respondents were engaged in similar practice duties in NICUs, most of which had been using therapy services for less than 10 years. Most of the respondents (83%) reported that their primary source of training was on the job rather than through formal course work or training programs. Many of the respondents (40%) lacked training in the use of any infant assessments, and 50% had 2 years or less of pediatric work experience before entering practice in the NICU. The respondents indicated that mentored experience, on-the-job training, pediatric work experience, extended continuing education courses, and formal internships could prove helpful to future occupational therapists who wish to acquire the knowledge and skills to become competent in the NICU.
Conclusion: Results of the survey indicate that current training and education to work in an NICU is inadequate and needs to be addressed. Occupational therapists working in NICUs desire and express the need for specialized training to work in this practice area. A more aggressive effort toward standard NICU education and training is necessary to ensure that occupational therapists are competent members of the NICU team.