Thursday, May 23, 2013

Life as a SLP..

You may or may not know, I'm a SLP....speech language pathologist. I have a Master's degree, and went to school for 6 years. I've done this for almost 10 years. Most people think of a SLP as someone who "teaches me to talk"...oh I could be rich off of how many times I've heard that. I've been called ST, speech therapist, speech teacher, SLP, and the girl with the brain games. I'm sure there have been more. What do I do in a day? Well, I work in the geriatric population and, most days, love it. On a day to day basis, I work on cognition..getting people back home safely, doing their own financial and med mgt, as well as safety awareness and community mgt. I work with people who've had strokes, who maybe can't speak clearly, or can't get out what they want to say. Dysphagia management is a big part of my day to day job...people who can't swallow safely, who may need alternate means of nutrition, thickened liquids, or a different diet texture. Sometimes people don't think about swallowing muscles getting weak, just like the leg or arm muscles. Developing and training patients and their caregivers on compensatory swallowing strategies, as well as strengthening exercises is a huge part of dysphagia mgt. I'm also Vital Stim certified.....providing highly specialized electrical stimulation as part of voice or swallowing therapy. So..yay...voice too..developing a specialized voice program, as well as good vocal hygiene to improve voice quality...whether it be for a singer, a speaker, or a person with Parkinson's disease. Aural rehab (hearing) is another aspect under the SLP umbrella....and just a hint...Medicare will pay for cochlear implants but not hearing aids!  SLP's work with patients with many different types of diseases..Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, ALS, Bells Palsy, CF, MS, MD just to name a few.

This is BHSM..Better Hearing and Speech Month. When I went to school for 6 years, no one told me that many times this is a thankless profession. Many times my job is belittled, or at least seen not as important as other therapy positions, by patients, families, and even colleagues at times. As an SLP, you are expected to do it all....the evaluation, the treatments, the paperwork...and be productive all at the same time. PT and OT both have assistants to do treatments...but not us.  However, I know my patient from beginning to end. There are days that I'm yelled at because I've brought a cognitive deficit to the forefront....I've recommended thickened liquids to stop aspiration of regular liquids into the lungs....I've argued my point over a specific strategy or specific device. There are days that I feel no matter what I do, it's not good enough, I didn't work hard enough. I've been thrown up on...I've been told by family they want to speak to the "real therapist"...cursed at..even a walker thrown at me! You don't hear "thank you" often...the progress you've helped achieve is not recognized. So why do I do it? I'll never forget the 25 year old head trauma guy who said his first word (since the accident)with me and eventually was off his PEG tube and eating a full meal...the single dad (he had a stroke at 43!) who could use a speech device downloaded onto his computer to speak with his kids' teachers...and order at Dunkin Donuts...a patient who gets to stay in their home because we've worked on cognition versus going into a nursing home...or seeing the gratitude in my patient's and his wife's eyes today about the progress he's made with swallowing and voice. I have many more, and maybe I just need to focus more on those. I love my job, I just take a lot of flack for it too.

So to all my speechy friends out there...happy ST month! Never forget that patient who makes you say..oh yeah..that's why I do what I do!