Two caregivers at the Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) Level II Special Care Level II Nursery have earned certification and licensures to provide newborns and their parents with specialized care services. Sara Herringshaw, PT, NTMTC, a physical therapist at MVHS, has earned Neonatal Touch and Massage Certification™ and Danielle Furlong, MS, CCC-SLP, a speech therapist at MVHS, has become a licensed Neonatal Oral-Motor Assessment Scale (NOMAS) practitioner.
Herringshaw is the only physical therapist in the region certified in Neonatal Touch and Massage, an exclusively neonatal certification that combines a holistic, systematic approach to massage, with an emphasis on families and nurturing opportunities. To earn the certification, Herringshaw demonstrated expertise in neuroprotective, family-centered, developmental care. The process included the completion of specialized education and training. She teaches parents the proper way to apply gentle, positive touch to their infants and toddlers with an emphasis on calming and soothing the child.
Neonatal touch and massage has been proven to help premature babies in several areas including: weight gain, neurodevelopmental outcomes, sleep, the immune system, circulation and the digestive system, while also satisfying the baby’s need for positive touch and closeness. Additionally, massage increases parental confidence and independence, supports infant-parent bonding and reduces parenting stress. Herringshaw was supported by funds from the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals staff education fund in support of improved infant and caregiver outcomes.
Furlong is the only speech therapist in the region licensed in using the NOMAS assessment tool, which is used to assess and guide feeding development in both breast and bottle fed babies. She uses the tool to evaluate neonatal sucking patterns in pre-term and full-term infants to identify normal oral-motor patterns and to differentiate disorganized from dysfunctional patterns.
Furlong began working on feeding development with premature and at-risk infants in the NICU in August 2019. She uses the NOMAS tool to provide a comprehensive description of the infant’s feeding patterns which helps her guide treatment planning to facilitate development of strong neural pathways and implement safe feeding practices as infants develop. Feeding is led by the infant, utilizing infant cues and providing positive experiences. She also provides support for parents in preparation for home discharge.
MVHS has the only Level II Special Care Nursery in the region. The nursery has specialized equipment, neonatologists and specially-trained nursing and support staff who have received additional training to provide the extra level of care necessary in the treatment of sick or premature newborns and to assist in high-risk deliveries.
MVHS neonatologists work with pediatricians, obstetricians and family practice physicians on a consulting basis. They are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.