Neonatal intensive care unit professionals' descriptions of the actual versus the ideal role of the developmental/educational specialist
Shannon, Jacqueline D.
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Since so many fragile and tiny newborns are surviving the neonatal period and requiring longer stays in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), concerns about their development and developmental care in the NICU have become important clinical issues. This study inquired how professionals in the NICU view the Developmental/Educational Specialist and what role the Developmental/Educational Specialist can play in supporting the newborn's development while in the NICU. This collaborative study reports the findings of a survey of 4 of the 15 Level III hospitals in the state of Illinois. These data, in turn, form the basis of a comprehensive study that examines these questions in all 15 NICUs throughout Illinois. Two questionnaires were used. The first questionnaire was sent out to the Director of Neonatology from each hospital. Within each hospital, the second questionnaire was hand delivered directly to all members of the NICU multidisciplinary team or in a packet to their supervisors. Results indicated that of the 142 respondents, 52.5% (n=83) identified a Developmental/Educational Specialist on staff, while 37.3% (n=59) identified no Developmental/Educational Specialist on staff. Within the group of professionals who identified a Developmental/Educational Specialist on staff, 90.2% believe this position is necessary for the care of high-risk infants in the NICU. Within the group of professionals who don't identify a Developmental/Educational Specialist on staff, 79.7% identified the need for one. Both groups perceive a significant need for an increase in NICU staff to incorporate developmental interventions with their daily medical/nursing and social interactions with high-risk infants during hospitalization. Developmental Intervention performed by NICU staff deserves further support and study.