Novice Occupational Therapist’s Experience of Working in Neonatal Intensive Care Units in KwaZulu-Natal

INTRODUCTION: The neonatal intensive care unit, an environment designed to meet the needs of severely ill neonates, is an area of practice for occupational therapists. However, there is limited evidence available around the training and practice of South African occupational therapists in these unitsAIM: To explore community service occupational therapists’ experiences of working in neonatal intensive care units in the KwaZulu-Natal public health sectorMETHODOLOGY: This study followed an explorative qualitative design. Homogenous purposive sampling was employed to recruit 12 therapists that participated in in-depth interviews. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. Data were analysed thematically by inductive reasoning initially, followed by categorisation via deductive reasoning using the theory of occupational adaptationRESULTS: Three themes emerged; the desire for mastery (including intrinsic drivers, multiple roles and routines in the NICU and capabilities and prior experiences); demand for mastery (including barriers and enablers in the NICU environment and development of the therapist-client relationship) and press for mastery (development of occupational identity, competence and adaptationCONCLUSIONS: The newly qualified occupational therapists who participated in this study appeared to be able to overcome the challenges of working in the highly technical environment of the NICU. There is a need for greater support and training of community service occupational therapists in this specialised field of practice
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