Top Takeaway Series – Neuro-Assessment

We are excited to bring you a new series of blog posts written by our consultant, Sarah Bakke — Top Takeaways from our online courses. 


Recently Sarah helped us revise our NeuroNICU Quick Start Guide. At the end of the course, she wanted to share her top takeaways with others. Keep reading on to see what Sarah had to say.


As a bedside nurse I’ve attended countless seminars, conferences, and webinars through the years. At the end, I’m always asking:

 “What’s the practical takeaway?” 

“What is the gem of knowledge that I can take back to my unit or incorporate in my personal practice to start making a difference for my patients and their families?”

That is exactly what hooked me when I attended the very first ONE Conference in 2017. Kathi really knows how to create conferences and training programs that apply to the bedside nurse. And this because her courses are filled with relevant NICU topics, are evidence-based, and above-all practical



Synapse Care’s new Neuro-Nurturing NICU Quickstart Guide and video series are a great way for any NICU clinician to get started on their NeuroNICU journey. Like all of Kathi’s courses, this new course is filled with practical takeaways that you can bring to your unit and your personal practice right now. 

In the Quick Start Guide and video series, Kathi introduces us to the 4 Pillars of NeuroNICU care – Neuro-assessment, Neuro-monitoring, Neuro-development, and Neuro-protection. 

So let’s talk Neuro-assessment…Here are my top three practical takeaways from the Quick Start Guide video series:



What are the neuro-assessments being used in my unit now?

It sounds so simple, but there are many layers to that question. If you really sit down and list them all, I think you’ll find that you are using multiple neuro-assessment tools on a daily basis, and may not even realize it. 

Of course, we are incorporating our standard neurologic exam in our head-to-toe assessment, but we also use tools like the NPASS for pain scoring and Finnegan for abstinence. But there are other things like newborn screening, 

What about you – can you list all of the neuro-assessment tools that you’re using?




What is our interrater reliability for the neuro-assessments that we do use?

In the Quick Start videos, Kathi provides an overview of Pillar 1 of NeuroNICU Care – Neuro-Assessment – and she brings up the topic of interrater reliability. 

As an example, let’s consider our practice in using the Finnegan Tool for scoring infants experiencing symptoms of withdrawal. Are we consistent when we score our NAS babies? Could we use some refresher training on using the Finnegan tool? Do we have a policy that is up to date and evidence based?




Neuroimaging is a type of Neuro-assessment

Advancements in neuro-imaging have made them more convenient and in some cases are considered the standard of care for some infants.  Head ultrasound, MRI, and occasionally CT scans are among the most common neuro-imaging tools that we use in the NICU. 

As Kathi points out, neuro-imaging is another type of neuro-assessment! Although they are a static moment in time they do provide us with important neurologic assessment data. 

Providers use imaging tools to diagnose, prognosticate, and to inform the treatment plan. 


Stay tuned for my next Top 3 Takeaway Series post on Neuromonitoring next month!

Are you ready to get started on the all-new NeuroNICU Quick Start Guide & Video Series, CLICK HERE or below!

I can’t wait to hear about your top takeaways from Part 1!! 



Blog written by Sarah Bakke

Sarah Bakke, BSN, RNC-NIC


Sarah started her career in a level III NICU in Indiana, and has worked in both level III and IV NICUs over the course of her career.  She is currently a staff nurse in the NICU at the Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE, and is working towards her MSN as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Drexel University.  She has led a number of neuroprotective initiatives during her time at Nemours including launching a language nutrition program, founding a multidisciplinary NeuroNICU committee, and organizing quality improvement projects.  Sarah is passionate about all things NeuroNICU.

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