May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, making it the perfect opportunity to thank our speech language pathologists for their hard work helping patients overcome speech, language and swallowing disorders. This is an important aspect of their role, but not the only thing that they do — they also work to prevent, assess, diagnose and treat social and cognitive-communication disorders in both children and adults.
This can mean improving speech and communication for patients with voice and motor speech disorders. It can also mean helping patients who have suffered a stroke, or those with traumatic brain injury (TBI), who may have difficulty eating or swallowing, as well as with problems with thought organization, memory and recall, planning and problem solving.
“SLPs do a lot more than many people realize,” said Rachel Sheffield, a Speech Language Pathologist at Monument Health. “Currently, I would say that there’s an underutilization of speech therapy with trauma patients, especially with assessing for concussion and evaluating and treating cognitive deficits for patients who have a confirmed head injury.”
Rachel recently completed a Brain Injury Specialist certification, which requires 500 hours of direct contact with patients who have experienced brain injury. “This certification was a verification of my training and experience with patients both at Monument Health and in my clinical rotations in Colorado and Utah,” she explained. “I’ve been able to bring my experience and this certification to Monument Health to help develop patient education on concussion. We also developed our own TBI screen that we are starting to use. We’re working to have it implemented as a standardized protocol for trauma patients.”
Rachel is currently the only speech language pathologist at Monument Health with the Brain Injury Specialist certification. This is in addition to the training that all SLP’s must complete in the state of South Dakota, which requires a qualifying master’s degree, passing the national SLP exam and completing post-graduate professional experience in the form of a clinical fellowship year.
That thorough education and training provides SLPs the skills and experience to treat patients with a wide range of disorders and more — whether they’re helping to improve speech, hearing and comprehension, or helping assess, evaluate and treat traumatic brain injuries.
“Our goal is to expand our services so that, in addition to our roles in improving communication and dysphagia, we are being included more frequently with the trauma population to assess for cognitive deficits. We want to ensure that these patients are safe to go home, and that they have the information and resources for post head injury recovery.”