Background: This qualitative study explored the knowledge to practice gaps of
occupational therapists who have a vital role in neurodevelopmental supportive
care for high-risk infants.
Methods: Via purposive sampling, 17 therapists working in public health in
South Africa were recruited to participate in virtual focus groups. Data were
thematically analysed using a hybrid approach.
Findings: Five themes emerged, which included (i) occupational therapy
and neonatal care in the public health sector, (ii) knowledge acquisition and
knowledge synthesis, (iii) knowledge translation and utilisation, (iv) contextual
barriers and adaptation and (v) the ideal occupational therapist in the ideal
neonatal setting. Facilitators, inhibitors, referrals, and interest in occupational
therapy neonatal care were also highlighted.
Conclusions: Knowledge to practice gaps in occupational therapy include
insufficient training, a decreased interest in neonatal care, staff shortages, multidisciplinary
team rotations and a reduced understanding of the professional
role and scope of occupational therapy. Resources, training, and policy
development appear to be necessary to inform a standard of care.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE:
The role of the occupational therapist in supporting high risk infants is generally
limited and remains somewhat unknown in current South African contexts.
It is essential to identify knowledge-to-practice gaps for occupational
therapists supporting high-risk infants in the public health sector for successful
implementation of neurodevelopmental supportive care.
By the exploration of practitioner opinions and insight through appreciating
the role of the occupational therapist in managing high risk infants, contextually
specific and relevant knowledge translation interventions may be developed
and implemented which have implications for evidence-based practice and
more successful outcomes in the high-risk infant.
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Copyright (c) 2023 South African Journal of Occupational Therapy