Occupational Therapy NICU Laboratory
General Laboratory Description
Dr. Bobbi Pineda directs the Occupational Therapy NICU Laboratory, which seeks to better understand the effects of the environment, medical conditions and interventions on brain structure and functional outcome of the developing infant. Most of the current work involves premature infants born prior to 32 weeks gestation (two months early). Neurobehavioral examinations and feeding evaluations are important components of measuring early function, and are therefore integral in the NICU the lab. Measuring long-term outcomes as well as maternal, social, environmental, and medical factors, are also important parts of the lab’s work.
General Description of Student Activities
Students will learn about the NICU environment and early premature infant development, as well as team dynamics, and how to interact in the NICU setting. After acclimating to the NICU environment and understanding the complexities of interacting with this fragile population, students may have the opportunity to participate in providing sensory interventions to preterm infants and/or learn neurobehavioral assessments based on current projects that are underway.
Students support the activities of the NICU lab with a team-based approach, which can include: obtaining informed consents, educating nurses, doing neurobehavioral assessments with supervision, collecting NICU language and sound measurements, and collecting medical record data. Students actively engage in the research process from start to finish under the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Pineda. This lab offers experience in infant assessment, clinical research, functioning as part of a team, teaching, leadership, presenting at state and national conferences, and publishing.
Examples of Projects
- Sensory processing disorder in preterm infants during early childhood and relationships to early neurobehavior
- Early therapy services following NICU discharge
- The OT as an interdisciplinary team member in the NICU: Patterns of therapy usage in a level IV NICU
- The development of sucking skills in the preterm infant in the NICU
Lab Created Assessments
- The Neonatal Eating Outcome Assessment tool is a comprehensive, standardized assessment that can be used from the time that feeding is initiated throughout the neonatal period to delineate alterations in the infant's feeding trajectory. It was created to evaluate the construct of feeding/eating for bottle-fed and breastfed premature infants in the NICU. To learn more about the Neonatal Eating Outcome Assessment and to purchase click HERE.
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- The SENSE (Supporting and Enhancing NICU Sensory Experiences) Program is a comprehensive approach to ensuring multi-modal positive sensory exposures across hospitalization for high-risk infants in the NICU. The SENSE Program provides education to engage families in providing developmentally appropriate positive sensory exposures to optimize outcomes for their infant(s). The sensory interventions are designed to be provided by parents, but the medical team and/or volunteers can also be engaged to ensure the sensory needs of each infant are met. To learn more about the SENSE Program and to purchase click HERE.
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