WK speech language pathologist receives board certification as neonatal therapist

Jessica Whitton (left) and Karen Vandersypen are certified neonatal therapists at Willis-Knighton South and the Center for Women’s Health. They are two of only three healthcare professionals in north Louisiana with this certification. (courtesy photo)

Jessica Whitton, MA, CC-SLP, speech language pathologist at Willis-Knighton South & the Center for Women’s Health, has earned the designation of certified neonatal therapist from the Neonatal Therapy National Certification Board (NTNCB).

She joins her colleague, Karen Vandersypen, PT, DPT, PCS, who received certification earlier this year. Whitton and Vandersypen are two of only three healthcare professionals in north Louisiana with this certification. 

As a certified neonatal therapist (CNT), Whitton provides highly specialized rehabilitation therapy services to premature, medically complex and fragile infants in Willis-Knighton South’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Neonatal therapists, an essential part of the NICU team, can be occupational therapists, physical therapists or speech-language pathologists who provide direct therapeutic care to babies as well as education and consultative services to families and staff. Their interventions support optimal long-term sensory and motor development, prevent adverse consequences and nurture the infant-family relationship.

To obtain board certification, candidates must achieve a minimum of 3,500 hours of direct practice in the NICU, a minimum of 40 hours of education related to NICU, and 40 hours of mentored experiences. They must also complete and pass a rigorous exam demonstrating specialized knowledge and proficiency.  

NTNCB’s goal in offering this credential is to ensure standards of excellence in neonatal therapy and to provide safe, effective and evidenced based services to at-risk infants and their families in the NICU environment.  

“Jessica Whitton and Karen Vandersypen are truly vital to our NICU team and do extraordinary work for the infants they treat and for the health system,” said Lisa James, assistant director of Willis-Knighton’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation department.  James noted that the neonatal therapist certification is a significant achievement and one that enhances care at Willis-Knighton’s NICU.