NOVICE OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS’ EXPERIENCES OF WORKING IN NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE UNITS IN KWAZULU-NATAL

Michaela Shannon Hardy, Pragashnie Govender, Deshini Naidoo

Abstract


Introduction: The neonatal intensive care unit, a specifically designed environment to meet the needs of severely ill neonates, is an area where occupational therapists have several roles to play. However, there is limited literature available around the training and practice of South African therapists in these units.

Method: The study followed a qualitative, explorative design with homogenous purposeful sampling. Twelve occupational therapists with less than four years post-community service experience were recruited and underwent in-depth interviewing regarding their experiences in neonatal intensive care units in the public health sector. Thematic analysis, with deductive reasoning, was used.

Results: The community service occupational therapists initially lacked the knowledge and skills for neonatal intensive care unit work. Knowledgeable supervisors and supportive multidisciplinary teams assisted their clinical practice; whereas a lack of resources, cultural barriers and poor orientation hindered practice. The community service occupational therapists went through a process of adaptation, gaining increased confidence and self-identity throughout their exposure, utilising many coping mechanisms.

Conclusions: The training of occupational therapists for neonatal intensive care unit practice urgently requires more attention within the South African context. Recommendations include curriculum review, inclusion of practical exposure, providing additional post-graduate courses and ensuring appropriate community service occupational therapist supervision. 


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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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