Key Members of the Health Care Team

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To help you understand why so many doctors and nurses are involved in your child’s care, here is a summary of the roles of the key members of the health care team.

A neonatologist is a children’s doctor specialized in newborns. The neonatologist generally works in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and cares for infants who need complex care in the first few weeks after birth.

A pediatrician is a doctor specialized in treating children of all ages. In a teaching hospital like Sainte Justine, Sick Kids’, or the Montreal Children’s Hospital, team members may include other doctors at various stages of training. A pediatric fellow is a pediatrician (or about to become one) specializing in neonatology or a related field. A resident is a doctor training to be a pediatrician or other specialist. A medical student is training to become a doctor. The student is under the direct supervision of your baby’s treating physician.

Bébé et infirmière2The nursing team provides round-the-clock care. Nurse practitioners are specialized nurses trained to assist physicians. In neonatology, neonatal nurse practitioners may help prescribe medication, exams and tests, in addition to providing nursing care together with the other nurses.  At the outpatient clinic for newborn follow-up, a nurse will coordinate health care and provide contacts to services such as specialized rehabilitation, if need be.

An audiologist is a hearing specialist. An audiologist will test your child for deafness and other hearing deficiencies.

A nutritionist assesses the caloric needs and nutrient intake for a given individual and develops an action plan for feeding or eating that encourages healthy growth.

An occupational therapist is a specialist in making it easier to go about the activities of daily living. An occupational therapist may examine the child for deficiencies in sensory and fine motor skills, and will suggest concrete ways of improving self-sufficiency in eating, dressing, writing, playing, and so on. This is particularly important in cases of developmental issues.

The role of occupational therapist

An ophthalmologist is an eye doctor, a medical doctor specialized in vision and eye health. This is different from an optometrist, who has extensive training in vision, eye health and eyeglasses, but is not a medical doctor.

A pharmacist is responsible for pharmaceutical drugs and medications. The doctor may consult with a NICU pharmacist as to which drug is best to use. The pharmacist will also show parents how to administer the medication once the baby goes home.

A physiatrist is a doctor specializing in rehabilitation. For children with musculoskeletal difficulties, the physiatrist may suggest various treatments, notably physiotherapy and/or orthotics (special insoles, leg or arm braces, and so on) if need be.

A physiotherapist prescribes a range of exercises to strengthen, stretch, or relax certain muscles. The physiotherapist may be called upon to address pain in movement, or to correct posture and gait (crawling, walking), or to prevent skull deformation (plagiocephaly) and other musculoskeletal difficulties.

The role of the physical therapist

A psychologist helps individuals and families cope with emotional or behavioural issues. Psychologists can suggest concrete ways to overcome or deal with certain behaviours, learning disabilities, and so on. Cases include children born preterm, or in poor health, or with developmental or learning disabilities. Some psychologists do assessments for academic and preschool development and offer individualized plans for best results.

The job of a respiratory therapist is to help the patient breathe. The respiratory therapist adjusts mechanical ventilators and supplementary oxygen, to make sure the baby gets enough oxygen, and is in charge of inhaled medications.

A social worker is the resource person who helps find solutions and provides contacts to ease the family situation.

A speech therapist may be consulted for speech impediments or other difficulties in speech, language, or communication. The speech therapist will visit the NICU to check on babies with mouth movement problems that may interfere with feeding.

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