“Infants and their families are the greatest inspiration to keep on working and developing as a therapist.”
Neonatal Therapists are Blooming Across the Globe: One Therapist’s Journey
Author and Interviewer:
NANT Member, Christy Gliniak OTR/L, CNT, CPXP
Have you ever wondered what neonatal therapy looks like abroad? How our NICU practices might differ and what challenges we have in common?
Meet NANT Member, Judita Dovydenaite, a neonatal therapist from Lithuania. As a pioneer of neonatal therapy in her country, her story is nothing short of inspiring.
Judita started her journey as an occupational therapy student at Vilnius University, in the Faculty of Medicine. Prior to her graduation from the bachelor’s program in 2013, she discovered the specialization of neonatal therapy through an American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) publication. This discovery sparked several conversations with her faculty professors, the department heads of early intervention, and chair of neonatology. These important stakeholders, holding an affinity for Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program (NIDCAP) principles and some exposure to neonatal therapy in the United States, partnered with Judita allowing her to join their team. Judita expressed her deep gratitude for their acceptance and collaboration as it was daunting to join a group of such experienced NICU professionals.
Judita’s tremendous persistence and dedication led to a master’s degree in 2016 and a yearlong unpaid internship at the Children’s Hospital, affiliated with Vilnius University in Santaros, Klinikosfor. There she received her clinical mentoring by the neonatologists, NICU nurses, and a developmental pediatrician. As part of her thesis, Judita completed research related to feeding and the use of oral stimulation with preterm infants. Currently, she is working with her team to change feeding culture and to promote consistent use of Infant-Driven Feeding concepts in the future.
The Commitment to Growth
Ms. Dovydenaite continually seeks advanced neonatal therapy education through NANT’s online resources and Member Benefits. Remotely, she has completed several Special Topic Courses and has completed the 1-year Ignite Training and Mentorship Program. Judita relies on this invaluable NANT community and educational resources to continually support her growth and professional confidence. Her future learning goals include bringing infant massage practice to her NICU and to study the use of the Prechtl General Movement Assessment or GMA.
The Personal and Clinical
Judita lives close to the hospital and in her spare time, she loves to read, enjoy music and hike in the forest near-by. At work, her caseload spans two distinct neonatal units. The first is designated for critically ill infants on ventilators or nasal CPAP. Infants remain there until they transition to high-flow or room air. In the second unit, the parent assumes the responsibility as a primary caregiver with nursing and other medical staff present for ongoing evaluations and parental education. Judita is also a member of the Lithuanian Lactation and Breastfeeding Consultants Association and as a therapist, she provides most of the education to families surrounding lactation and breastfeeding.
The Universal Love for Babies and Families
Sharing a familiar sentiment, Judita stated, “Infants and their families are the greatest inspiration to keep on working and developing as a therapist.” Many of us share this level of passion for neonatal therapy but less of us are required to advocate for our field to this degree. During our call, I experienced that connection phenomenon, similar to the feeling of connection you experience at the NANT Conference. Our love of babies and their families is universal. It unites our professions in the mission to serve regardless of economic, political, and cultural differences. It was a distinct pleasure to meet Judita and hear about her unique professional journey. During International Neonatal Therapy Week, we want to recognize you, Judita, and applaud your hard work!