Pediatric Physical Therapist
While in the Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit (N/IICU) your baby may receive physical therapy from a pediatric physical therapist (PT).
What does a pediatric physical therapist do for babies in the N/IICU?
A pediatric physical therapist who works in the N/IICU has been specially trained to work with critically ill newborns and babies and their families. PTs have a thorough understanding of preterm and infant development and behavior. They use this — along with skilled observations — to guide their care of medically fragile babies. PTs work with families to help them understand their baby’s behaviors.
Medically fragile babies show their response to touch or movement by changing their breathing and heart rates and their oxygen levels. For these babies, the N/IICU environment and routine nursing care can be very challenging. PTs may work with N/IICU staff to tailor the N/IICU environment and the baby's nursing care to the comfort of the baby.
The pediatric physical therapist will:
- Observe your baby closely, watch breathing, skin coloring and movements to understand what your baby finds stressful.
- Position and handle your baby in ways that support his or her movements, sleeping, waking and self-soothing abilities.
- Work with parents and N/IICU staff to promote comfort and good positioning of babies.
- Help your baby’s development:
• Improve your baby’s motor skills by bringing his hand to his mouth, tucking his
arms and legs to his body, holding his head up, and reaching;
• Work on sensory responses and cognitive skills such as following with his eyes
and turning towards a sound; and
• Practice skills such as calming by sucking on a pacifier.
- Track your baby’s development.
Pediatric physical therapists help you support your baby
When your baby is ready, PTs will work with you to support your baby’s development. They will:
- Help you feel safe and more comfortable holding and interacting with your baby.
- Teach you about your baby’s behavior and the signals your baby uses to demonstrate he is ready to interact.
- Teach you ways to bond with your baby. Bonding with your baby helps your baby’s development and growth.
- Teach you about the development of your baby’s motor and sensory responses (feeling, seeing, and hearing).
- Assist you with your baby’s transition to home by helping you obtain services within the community to support your baby’s development.
Qualifications of a pediatric physical therapist
- A graduate degree (master’s degree or clinical doctorate) in physical therapy;
- Passed a national licensure examination;
- Passed a specialty board certification examination in pediatrics; and
- Had an average of 10-plus years experience working with babies and children before working in the N/IICU at CHOP.
PTs apply current research and proven skills to help each child to move, and participate as well as he or she can. PTs stay current on new concepts and treatment in order to provide the best care. The physical therapy department is happy to answer any questions you may have about its services and resources for parents.
Meet our team
Physical Therapy N/IICU Team Leader
Diane Versaw-Barnes, DPT, PT, PCS
Physical Therapist III – N/IICU
Audrey Wood, MS, PT, PCS
Judy Coplan, PT, DPT
Linda Pagnotto-Hammitt, MS, PT
As a partner on your child’s healthcare team, feel free to contact Diane Versaw-Barnes, DPT, PT, PCS, at 267-426-5002 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated April 2012