Turning Challenges into Opportunities: Expansion of the Number of CNTs Across the Providence Health System

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford.

The COVID-19 pandemic left many of us feeling alone, isolated, and disconnected. This happened during a time that forced us to adjust to the unexpected turn of events and changes in our daily lives. However, some teams were able to seize opportunities that may not have existed under different circumstances. During this difficult time, a group of therapists came together and set out to turn challenges into opportunities. Ashleigh Connell (MA, CCC-SLP, CNT), Kayla Fleming (MS, CCC-SLP), Torri Reichman (OTR/L, DOT, CNT), Taylour Vigna (MA, CCC-SLP), and Stephanie Williams (PT, DPT, CNT) share with us how they became Certified Neonatal Therapists (CNTs) during a worldwide pandemic and give their insights into the benefits of pursuing certification together.  

Ashleigh, Kayla, Torri, Taylour, and Stephanie are part of the multidisciplinary therapy team at two sister hospitals in Portland, Oregon. Providence St. Vincent Medical Center is a 40-bed, Level III NICU with three speech-language pathologists, two occupational therapists, and two physical therapists. Providence Portland Medical Center is a Level III NICU with 20 beds and is covered by one speech-language pathologist, one occupational therapist, and one physical therapist. 

Board certification in neonatal therapy has always been among their professional interests. For Stephanie, the journey to becoming a CNT organically accompanied her journey in the NICU. She first learned about becoming a CNT when the certification process was launched in 2016. As she gained experience as a neonatal therapist over the years, her interest in becoming a CNT grew even more, and she soon found herself ready to apply. In fact, Stephanie had not only built expertise in neonatal practice through years of dedication for excellence but was also surrounded by a like-minded group of individuals. There were two other highly experienced CNTs in her NICU who provided training and mentoring and cheered her down the pathway to becoming a CNT. In addition, there were several other members of her team who were also interested in pursuing CNT credentialing. Limitations on travel for continuing education provided opportunities for financial support for certification. So, without further ado, Stephanie took action. 

“We have a robust team with lots of different experiences. So, I immediately thought it would be more fun to study together and keep each other accountable. It started with just a few of us and quickly grew!” – Stephanie Williams, PT, DPT, CNT.

The NTCB applauds this group of therapists who worked together to make CNT status a reality.  A group of five therapists (from three different disciplines and from 2 NICUs) embarked on the journey together.

When asked about the benefit of pursuing certification as a group, their answer was ‘accountability’. They identified that everything that went into prepping for neonatal therapy certification applied and translated to what they do on a day-to-day basis. Immersing in current evidence related to NICU practice also strengthened the use of evidence-based practice.

“Preparing as a group kept me accountable to spacing out studying over several months. I appreciated the different perspectives each discipline contributed to our discussions of the journal articles.” Ashleigh Connell, MA, CCC-CLP, CNT

The process toward CNT status was not all easy, of course. Even though they worked together to prepare for the exam, finding time to meet was a challenge. However, they set up a virtual meeting 1x per week for 1 hour and found that this was great for accountability and keeping them on track! To prep for the exam, the group primarily utilized articles from the resource guide provided by the NTCB. They dug a little deeper to find resources to strengthen their knowledge in the area of feeding.

“It was valuable to have each discipline involved in the study group since we identified different questions and pulled different information based on our backgrounds. It was also a great opportunity to talk through our knowledge base and gain confidence in the skills we already had. And of course, it made studying more fun!”-Torri Becker Reichman, OTD, OTR/L, CNT, CLE.

Approaching the certification as a multidisciplinary team came with huge benefits! Since they came from three different disciplines, they each brought a unique perspective to each subject area. This helped them with exam prep and created an opportunity to help each other grow as clinicians. 

“I think finding a multidisciplinary group is a huge benefit. Even if you aren’t all from one hospital, you will learn a lot from each other.”- Stephanie Williams, PT, DPT, CNT.

“I really appreciated the accountability of studying with a group. Having set days with topics was helpful for my learning. It was also great having multiple disciplines to share their expertise. I think individual learning styles can be very different, so studying as a group made learning more accessible (in my mind) because you had different people presenting the information.” – Kayla Fleming, MS, CCC-SLP.

The two Providence Health Medical Centers that this group of CNTs provides care for fragile babies and families at now have 7 CNTs on their team. Welcome to the CNT community, and thank you for sharing with us the power of coming together—in a shared commitment to serving high-risk infants in the NICU. Further, thank you for turning challenges during a pandemic into opportunities. The babies and families that you share your expertise with thank you! 

We look forward to seeing your team’s applications this cycle. When 2 or more therapists apply together, they each receive a discount of $50 off the exam.  Join the growing number of CNTs and start your application at www.neonataltherapycertification.com