Doha, 22 September 2021: The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Women’s Wellness and Research Center is this week joining the international community to observe International Neonatal Therapy Week aimed at celebrating the contributions of neonatal occupational and physical therapists across the globe.
The week, which runs until 25 September, is supported by National Association of Neonatal Therapists® (NANT) - an organization that serves neonatal occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech-language pathologists. According to NANT, neonatal therapy is the art and science of integrating typical development of the infant and family into the environment of the NICU.
Activities during the week include a one-day webinar titled, “Supporting and Enhancing NICU Sensory Experiences (SENSE)” by Professor Bobbi Pineda. Around 30 participants across different disciplines in Hamad Medical Corporation and Sidra Medicine are expected to attend the webinar.
Throughout the week, awareness roll-ups and posters are displayed at different locations across WWRC while fun educational activities will be held in NICU and postnatal (PN) wards with healthcare professionals for their awareness and engagement. There will also be ‘Help You Grasp-HUG’ sessions with parents of babies in the NICU to increase their awareness and involvement in their babies’ care. There will also be half day symposium featuring various speakers discussing, “How to Collaboratively Improve Care for Neonates”.
“In the NICU, occupational therapists and physiotherapists nurture the development of preterm neonates via integrated, individualized, neuroprotective, and therapeutic interventions. And as neonatal therapists, we use our specialized education and training to support optimal short and long-term development of preterm babies. We prevent or mitigate adverse sequelae and nurture the infant-family connection. We do our best to bridge the developmental gap from the expected environment of the womb to the unexpected and unpredictable environment of the NICU,” says Dr. Hilal Al Rifai, Acting Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director of WWRC.
Stressing the importance of integrating neonate’s developmental care and family with the NICU environment, Dr. Mai Abdulla Al Qubaisi, Acting Director of NICU, WWRC states, “Parental involvement is essential and beneficial both for the baby and the mother. More parental visits are linked to less parental and baby stress, enhanced mother-child bonding, decreased separation anxiety, more milk supply leading to better weight gain for the baby, better understanding and confidence among parents to take care of the preterm baby.”
She notes further that parents’ engagement in the NICU helps to decrease emotional and behavioral problems in child’s later life. It also promotes better tone and neurodevelopment, decreases pain, hypoglycemia, hypothermia, and readmissions.
Mr. Sultan Salim Hammam Al Abdullah, Head of Occupational Therapy explains that occupational therapists play a vital role in the NICU by incorporating age-appropriate feeding techniques to feed preterm babies safely and efficiently. “Occupational therapists also educate nurses and parents in understanding their babies’ cues while ensuring that babies are fed safely in the NICU and at home. These strategies help in the babies’ neuro behavioral organization, nurturing their immature sensory systems while also improving family attachment and bonding,” he notes.
Ms. Noora Rashid Al Mudahka, Chief of Physiotherapy adds: “Physiotherapists assess babies’ movements and suggest strategies to optimize their neuromotor development. Physiotherapists nurture infants’ immature musculoskeletal system by providing them with individualized, therapeutic as well as neuroprotective interventions. They also educate nurses and parents in understanding their babies’ strengths, and areas where they can support to optimize their babies neuromotor development.”
Upon discharge from the NICU, the preterm babies are screened in follow-up clinics to identify concerns in their development and the need to refer for appropriate therapy services if required. WWRC has two follow-up clinics namely Baby Therapy Clinic (which follows babies born at 30+1 to 36+6 weeks of gestation until they are one-year-old) and Neonatal Neurodevelopmental Clinic that follows extreme preterm babies born from 23+0 to 30+0 weeks of gestation until they are two-years-old.