Speech language pathology is concerned with the study of disorders that affect a person's speech, language, cognition, voice or swallowing. Speech language pathologists (SLP) address a person's speech production, vocal production, swallowing difficulties, cognitive difficulties and language needs through evaluation and provision of speech therapy. In the inpatient setting speech language pathologists treat patients with varied diagnoses such as stroke, brain injury, cognitive impairment, swallowing disorders and head and neck cancer. Communication is a problem for many of these patients and special techniques and technologies are used to help patients during hospitalization.
Speech language pathologists help patients recover by:
- Evaluating the patient's swallowing, communication, cognition, speech and language based on the patient's individual needs.
- Identifying impairments such as dysphagia (swallowing problems), communication deficits, cognitive deficits such as memory loss and speech/language deficits that can affect both speaking and understanding of language.
- Designing an individualized treatment plan that addresses a patient's impairments with the goal of educating, addressing cognition, improving communication and meeting the nutritional needs of a client when swallowing is a problem to help the patient live a better quality life with greater safety and independence
Treatment may include:
- Defining the nature and severity of dysphagia (swallowing problem), determining the prognosis, and determining how to meet the patient's nutritional needs
- Techniques designed to improve speaking and understanding of language
- Providing prognosis and recommendations for patients with cognitive problems
- Use of communication technology and techniques including the Passy Muir speaking valve for clients with tracheostomy, augmentative tools for patients who are unable to speak and tools for patients who have had a laryngectomie to help them produce sound
- Providing clients with home programs
- Advocacy for the patient when quality of life decisions are being made
- Education for patients and their families or caregivers regarding specific disorders and the treatment plan and prognosis
- Education to other team members such as the physician, nurse, occupational therapist, physical therapist, respiratory therapist, dietician, social worker and case manager
- Making referrals to other specialists if needed
- Providing pre-operative counseling and maintaining contact with the surgeon for patients with laryngectomies or other throat surgeries