The American Academy of Pediatrics has just issued new neonatal care standards that now recognize the expertise of SLPs for supporting feeding, swallowing and neurodevelopment, as part of an interdisciplinary NICU team alongside OT and PT. Minimum standards for Level II, III, and IV are specified, with a goal to “improve neonatal outcomes by ensuring that every infant receives care in a facility with the personnel and resources appropriate for the newborn’s needs and condition.”
Both Level III and Level IV NICU Requirements support consistent presence of SLPs in the NICU and ensure that NICU patients and their families receive the services they need to thrive in the NICU and after discharge. This includes onsite access to an SLP with neonatal expertise, preferably certified in neonatal therapy, who is skilled in the evaluation and management of neonatal feeding and swallowing concerns.
How the NICU rehab “workload” is shared depends on each NICU team’s interprofessional practice, and the unique expertise of rehab team members. That working relationship, no matter what way it is designed in each particular NICU, is the key to meeting the needs of the infants, their families and staff. Together, the rehab team addresses six core practice domains (environment, family and psychosocial support, sensory system, neurobehavioral system, neuromotor and musculoskeletal systems, and oral feeding and swallowing) in order to provide appropriate care for the neonatal population.
Stark, A. R., Pursley, D. M., Papile, L. A., Eichenwald, E. C., Hankins, C. T., Buck, R. K., … & Faster, N. E. (2023). Standards for Levels of Neonatal Care: II, III, and IV. Pediatrics, 151(6), e2023061957. See attached via open access on Google Scholar