Gabby Kompare, Neonatal Physical Therapist at Spring Valley Hospital
Neonatal physical therapist Gabrielle “Gabby” Kompare works with tiny patients in Spring Valley Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), which provides advanced medical care and developmentally supportive care for patients who were born prematurely or have other medical issues. She recently earned her designation as a Certified Neonatal Therapist, one of approximately 250 in the world and only the second in Nevada.
Gabby spends her workday with patients who typically weigh less than five pounds and cannot express their feelings or frustrations other than a whimper. In many ways, her years as a physical therapist for adults recovering from stroke, injury or illness helped prepare her for working with neonates. “When a stroke leaves someone unable to speak, you have to understand how their muscles feel and react so you know what therapies to perform and how the person is progressing,” explained Gabby. “It was a wonderful training for working with newborns that are only days or weeks old and can’t express themselves with words.”
“Neonatal therapy is the art and science of integrating the typical development of a newborn and family into the environment of the NICU,” said Gabby. This means helping parents understand their baby’s movements and developmental behaviors. Something as simple as a certain touch, or parents performing skin-to-skin care can positively impact a newborn’s physiological stability, which makes a tremendous improvement in their sleep and long-term neurodevelopment.
Every interaction serves a specific purpose. Gabby might help a baby turn her head toward a sound, which helps develop thinking and sensing skills. Or, a baby might need some encouragement to accept a pacifier, which can help with feeding and self-soothing skills. “Everything we do provides the foundation to develop functional skills long term for development,” she said.
The best part of her job, said Gabby, “is seeing the outcomes of all of our efforts. We have an interdisciplinary team which includes the neonatologist; neonatal nurse practitioner; NICU nurses; clinical supervisors; respiratory therapists; dietitians; social workers; our physical, occupational and speech therapists; and our NICU and therapy managers. I think we have the best team in town to care for our small patients. We all have a lasting impact on our NICU families, but more importantly, the development of our patients.”
“This certification showcases Gabby’s commitment to her patients and her profession,” said Leonard Freehof, CEO/Managing Director of Spring Valley Hospital. “She is the first physical therapist in The Valley Health System to earn this designation, and only the second in Nevada. We are very proud of her, and know our NICU patients and families will continue to benefit from her expertise.”
About the Neonatal Therapy Certification
To earn this certification, applicants must have a minimum of three years of experience as a physical, occupational or speech therapist; have 3,500 hours or more of NICU experience; undergo 40 hours of mentored experience with other certified neonatal therapists; pass the Neonatal Therapy National Certification exam and take 40 hours of NICU-specific continuing education hours.
Learn more about the NICU at Spring Valley Hospital >