Neonatal Physical Therapy. Part 1: Clinical Competencies and NICU Clinical Training Models, Part 1

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Physical Therapy


Purpose: To describe clinical training models, delineate clinical competencies, and outline a clinical decision-making algorithm for neonatal physical therapy.

Key Points: In these updated practice guidelines, advanced clinical training models, including precepted practicum and residency or fellowship training, are presented to guide practitioners in organizing mentored, competency-based preparation for neonatal care. Clinical competencies in neonatal physical therapy are outlined with advanced clinical proficiencies and knowledge areas specific to each role. An algorithm for decision making on examination, evaluation, intervention, and re-examination processes provides a framework for clinical reasoning. Because of advanced-level competency requirements and the continuous examination, evaluation, and modification of procedures during each patient contact, the intensive care unit is a restricted practice area for physical therapist assistants, physical therapist generalists, and physical therapy students.

Conclusions/Practice Implications: Accountable, ethical physical therapy for neonates requires advanced, competency-based training with a preceptor in the pediatric subspecialty of neonatology.


Originally published:

Sweeney, Jane K., Heriza, Carolyn B., Blanchard, Yvette. "Neonatal Physical Therapy: Clinical Competencies and NICU Clinical Training Models, Part 1." Pediatric Physical Therapy 21.4 (2009): 296-307.

DOI: 10.1097/PEP.0b013e3181bf75ee