Christina Dougherty, MA, CCC-SLP, NTMTC

We are proud to introduce Christina from the NICU at Saint Francis Medical Center in Missouri.  She completed her Neonatal Touch & Massage Certification in June 2012 and has made huge strides. Continue reading to be inspired and learn some helpful ideas and tips from her journey!

 1. Briefly describe your NICU Environment or practice

When I first began working in my current NICU, the medical director strongly believed in developmental care but implementation was a slow process for a new unit with a variety of nursing experience. In 2005, we added Jane Harden to our staff, an Occupational Therapist with extensive NICU experience and a better understanding of how to truly implement developmental care consistently in our unit. We continued to grow by leaps and bounds transitioning through four units in our growth. With ongoing bedside training and inservices, the atmosphere has become more patient and family-focused with infant-driven feedings a priority.

2. How has NTMC changed your practice?

Participating in the NTMC training was such a turning point for our unit. We went as a team (2 PT’s, 2 SLP’s and 1 OT) and it provided the bigger picture that connected the dots of developmental care. After NTMC, I was empowered to fight for these babies and their brains by facilitating best practice for touch and massage. By gaining the insight and underlying concept of touch related to brain development, we have the manual, which drives the application of all the tools we have in our toolbox.

3. What do you find the most powerful or effective skill you learned in NTMC

The hands-on application of touch and massage during the course was one of the most powerful and effective things I learned and continue to use in everyday practice. Through massage I have been able to see immediate and long-term changes in the babies we work with in our unit and in follow-up clinic. I now can teach parents and empower them to help their baby’s brain and sensory development in a hands-on way.

4. What projects are you working on now or have you completed since NTMC to enhance your own or your unit’s practice?

As a team, we therapists have worked together to make massage a priority in the NICU. We now have nurses requesting massage for babies and parents eager to learn and be more involved. We have improved the frequency of skin-to-skin contact and nurses are more confident in encouraging this, as well as using a standing transfer. We also spend a day with each new nurse in the unit before they complete their orientation for education and training on developmentally supportive care and “how to think” about these babies. I love a recent quote from my coworker Jane Harden when she was teaching a new nurse on why developmental care is important: ” Not everyday do you have an opportunity to save their life but everyday is an opportunity to save their brain.”