We continue celebrating Better Hearing and Speech Month by highlighting speech pathology’s role in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU.
How can a speech-language pathologist help patients in the NICU?
The therapist’s focus is on supporting the infant’s development, maximizing developmental outcomes, and providing counseling and family-focused education and training. A neonatal SLP requires additional immersive training and mentorship as well as NICU-specific competencies.
Neonatal SLPs assess and treat swallowing and feeding problems via bedside clinical exams, diagnostic video fluoroscopy swallow studies and bedside flexible endoscopic evaluation of swallowing exams. An assessment involves looking at the infant’s ability to latch and to transfer fluid through the oral cavity and the ability to manage fluid in the throat for safe swallowing. As part of treatment, the SLP will implement strategies and techniques to improve the latch, suction and fluid flow rate. SLPs also work closely with occupational therapists in the NICU to ensure a holistic approach to evaluations and treatments. This approach allows therapists to support the infant and their family in the best way possible.
Meet a neonatal speech-language pathologist
Stephanie Davis, CCC-SLP, has been a speech therapist for 17 years and has worked at UF Health for nearly 10 years supporting both adult and pediatric patients. She is the clinical specialist on the speech team and board-certified in swallowing and swallowing disorders. She is also a certified neonatal therapist and a published author. Stephanie also sits on national committees for her discipline.
Her interest in speech pathology began after she was diagnosed with dyslexia. She learned the value of a dedicated and passionate therapist from her many therapy sessions and realized the difference one person can make in the lives of others.
“What an honor it is to be a part of these little ones’ journeys,” said Stephanie. “I am so very fortunate be a part of this practice in my field.”
Visit UFHealthJax.org/rehabilitation-services to learn more about speech therapy and other services offered at UF Health.