Neonatal Therapy Staffing in the United States and Relationships to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Type and Location, Level of Acuity, and Population Factors.

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American journal of perinatology


Infant, Newborn; Infant; Child; Humans; United States; Intensive; oregon; portland; psvmc Care Units, Neonatal; Surveys and Questionnaires; Workforce


OBJECTIVES:  This study aimed to (1) estimate the total pool of neonatal therapists (occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech-language pathologists who work in the neonatal intensive care unit [NICU]) and the average number represented in each U.S. based NICU, and (2) investigate the relationships between the number and type of neonatal therapy team members to NICU/hospital, population, and therapy factors.

STUDY DESIGN:  This study used several methods of data collection (surveys, phone calls, and web site searches) that were combined to establish a comprehensive list of factors across each NICU in the United States.

RESULTS:  We estimate that there are 2,333 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions designated to neonatal therapy coverage, with 4,232 neonatal therapists covering those FTEs. Among 564 NICUs with available neonatal therapy staffing data, 432 (76%) had a dedicated therapy team, 103 (18%) had pro re nata (as the circumstances arise; PRN) therapy coverage only, and 35 (6%) had no neonatal therapy team. Having a dedicated therapy team was more likely in level-IV (

CONCLUSION:  Understanding the composition of neonatal therapy teams at different hospitals across the U.S. can drive change to expand neonatal therapy services aimed at optimizing outcomes of high-risk infants and families.

KEY POINTS: · We estimated that there are 4,232 neonatal therapists working in NICUs in the United States.. · Dedicated therapy teams for the NICU are more common in large, high acuity NICUs.. · An average of 17 beds per neonatal therapy FTE was observed.. · In 2020, 22% of NICUs had CNTs, and CNTs were more common in large and high acuity NICUs.. · Benchmarking neonatal therapy staffing can aid in expanding NICU therapy services where needed..

Clinical Institute

Women & Children






Occupational Therapy