Question: I am seeking your help as we fight for increased SLP staffing in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Do you have any resources to justify more staffing and resources?
Answer: There is little to no data about NICU SLP services out there , and we always have to build the relationships that create respect for the value we add. This takes much time collaborating, thinking along with our medical and nursing colleagues, and building that open mind with each infant with whom we work, one by one. As a former Rehab leader, I found that was my only way to over time build the recognition of the need for our services , i.e our value to the infants, their families and the team. This then generated the referrals that needed to be seen. Then when MDs were not happy if referrals were delayed due to inadequate staffing, leadership could relook at budget to allow us to allocate more staff. Now, as a front line NICU staff person, I continue to build relationships and then let my leader take the next steps.
I have found it very successful to utilize a co-morbidity-based approach to advocating for feeding needs — See: Edney, S. K., Jones, S., & Boaden, E. (2018). Screening for feeding difficulties in the neonatal unit: Sensitivity and specificity of gestational age vs. medical history. Journal of Neonatal Nursing.
The only article I know of looking at utilization in the NICU was this one —- Ross, K., Heiny, E., Conner, S., Spener, P., & Pineda, R. (2017). Occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology in the neonatal intensive care unit: Patterns of therapy usage in a level IV NICU. Research in developmental disabilities, 64, 108-117.
I hope this is helpful.