Did you know that Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) are autonomous professionals whose work is highly routed in neurology and physiology? Their education focus is on anatomy and physiology of the brain, mouth, nose, throat and related structures. Because of this focus, SLPs are true “pathologists" in both communication (speech, voice, language) and swallowing, in their ability to trace a client's overt symptoms to neurological or structural causes.
This interesting fact was provided by Maggie, a Speech-Language Pathologist working for Vancouver Home Health. “It sometimes feels like doing detective work!" she says. “But what I enjoy most is working with adults in the community to support them and their families in understanding and managing swallowing and communication deficits that are either chronic or new conditions."
Previously, Maggie worked in acute hospital and outpatient rehab, where she noticed that client's performance in the clinic didn't always correlate to performance reports from home. “I started to question if there would be more value to seeing clients in their “natural" environment, rather than in a clinic/hospital," she explains. “When I had the opportunity to work in community, I jumped on the chance. Now, after this experience, I am a huge supporter of in-home rehab; using the client's every-day environment to learn and practice new skills."
Working in health care can become daunting as Maggie points out. “We are working with people who have had a (negative) change to function. But through the difficulty, you start to recognize and appreciate the small victories."
Food is one of the simplest joys in life, so when clients are unable to eat by mouth, Maggie does her best to help rehabilitate their swallow to get them back to an oral diet. “It never fails to bring a tear to my eye when you see the joy on a client's face when you tell them they can start eating orally after being tube fed for months!"
Helping clients overcome a challenge and seeing their success is always inspirational for health-care professionals. “I'll always remember this one session with a client with severe aphasia (language impairment) and apraxia (speech impairment), who appeared very frustrated one day," says Maggie. “He very clearly had something to share, but it was very difficult for him to communicate. Instead of our usual therapy, we took about 30 minutes using supportive communication techniques to work out that it was his birthday! He had been trying to express this all day! We ended up having an impromptu celebration for him."
Maggie incorporates the VCH Values (We Care for Everyone, We are Always Learning and We Strive for Better Results) with the belief that the minute we think we know everything, is the minute we stop learning. “I continually push myself to question and investigate things I think I know," she says. “I strive for client-centered practice, as I believe client knows their body and needs better than any medical professional, so I try to pair client's knowledge with scientific knowledge and research to achieve best results."