In the NICU - the amazing staff
Are you watching the remarkable NICU series on Discovery Health at 10 PM (ET/PT) on Thursday nights? Babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) need constant monitoring and 24-hour care from a variety of health care professionals. Here are some of the staff members parents are likely to meet in the NICU or during the months that follow:
Neonatologist: A pediatrician (children’s doctor) with advanced training in the care of sick newborns. The neonatologist who is in charge of the NICU is sometimes called the “attending” doctor. There may be several neonatologists in the NICU. For more information, read “What is a neonatologist?” from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Neonatology fellow: A fully-trained pediatrician who is receiving advanced training in the care of sick newborns.
Neonatal clinical nurse specialist: A neonatal nurse with advanced training who works under the supervision of the neonatologist and who cares for sick and premature babies.
Neonatal nurse practitioner: A registered nurse who has advanced education (usually a master’s degree) and specialized training in working with premature and sick newborns. He or she works under the direction of the neonatologist, can perform many procedures, and helps direct each baby’s care.
Occupational therapist (OT): A health professional who helps evaluate a baby’s neurosensory development. (”Neurosensory” refers to the baby’s nervous system.) The OT focuses on feeding and swallowing issues, range of motion in the arms and legs, and developmental positioning.
Pediatric resident: A doctor who is receiving training in the medical specialty of pediatrics.
Physical therapist (PT): A health professional who helps evaluate how a baby moves and how any movement problems may affect milestones like sitting, rolling over or walking. The physical therapist aims to improve muscle strength and coordination.
Registered dietitian (RD): An expert in nutrition who has a four-year college degree. RDs have passed a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Registered dietitians who work in the NICU also have had additional training in nutrition for children. These health professionals work with the neonatologists and nurses to help make sure each baby is getting all the nutrients she needs for healthy growth.
Registered nurse: A health professional who has passed a written examination after graduating from a college or hospital nursing program. Registered nurses in NICUs have experience in caring for sick newborns.
Respiratory therapist: A health professional trained to care for babies with breathing problems and to use the medical equipment needed to care for these babies.
Social worker: A professional who is specially trained to help parents cope with the emotional aspects of their baby’s NICU stay. The social worker can help parents obtain the information they need from their baby’s doctors, provide them with sources of information on their baby’s medical problems, help deal with financial difficulties and stress, and help parent make any special arrangements they may need for their baby’s discharge and follow-up care.
Speech and language pathologist: A person who is trained in speech and language problems. He or she often works with newborns in NICUs to help assist them with feeding problems.
Technicians: Staff members who perform specific procedures such as drawing blood or taking x-rays.
These health professionals are all part of a team that is working to help each baby get stronger and to help parents cope with this difficult time. Parents need to remember that they also are an important member of the team and that they should never hesitate to ask questions about how their baby is doing or to learn ways they can help.
Tags: Discovery Health, neonatal intensive care unit, neonatologist, newborn, NICU, occupational therapist, physical therapist, preemie, premature baby, respiratory therapist, speech and language pathologist