Rolling into the New Year

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Every year people set resolutions.  People want to lose weight, make more money or do good in the world.  How about resolutions for your professional life? Have you ever decided to professionally improve for the new year?

Sometimes a better way to look at resolutions is to set goals for yourself. We set goals for our patients every day however we often don’t create achievable goals for ourselves.

We often said ourselves up for failure for the new year. We may create a resolution that will lose 50 pounds by a certain date however we never make that resolution into steps to get there.  When we want to patient to achieve a certain goal we create a long-term goal bit then we give them obtainable steps to get there.

Here are ideas for a long-term goals to set for your professional life for 2017.

1.  Treat your patient like you would treat a family member.

It is so often easy to think of a patient as just that a patient and forget that they are also a person and somebody’s loved one.  Our job as a speech language pathology us is to provide the best possible care and to help our patients achieve the best possible outcomes.

2.  Educate your patients.

This is an area that can sometimes be difficult but is very necessary. Often times our patients with dysphasia have never heard of problems with swallowing. We may be the first person that has ever mentioned A possibility of swallowing difficulties with this patient. To create patient by an aunt to help achieve patient compliance we need to explain to them a normal swallow and how their swallow is different. We also need to explain to them what we’re doing with them and why. Telling somebody to stick their tongue out 10×3 times a day and not ever explaining why you’re asking them to do this will make them question what we’re doing and very possibly decrease their compliance with the task.

3.  Educate yourself.

Continuing education is mandated in our field. This is because there is ever-changing information particularly in the area of dysphagia. We need to keep aware of current trends and change our therapy to reflect these changes. If we continue to do the same thing over and over with a patient we can’t hope for different outcomes. We can’t hope for different outcomes using outdated methods of treatment that have new evidence that show they are not effective.  See my previous post on five considerations for continuing education.

4.  Advocate for yourself.

If you’re unhappy with your work environment maybe it’s time to make a change. There’s been a lot of talk on Facebook recently regarding productivity standards in various facilities across the United States. Most times these productivity standards come about because people actually achieve these standards. Most times a very high productivity is often meds because the person may be documenting off the clock or doing work off the clock. If we want these productivity standards to change we have to take a stand and let our supervisors know that this is not possible and is not beneficial to the care that our patients deserve. Document what you do each day that is both productive and nonproductive. Show how your nonproductive time is beneficial to patients safety and can help reduce risk of re-hospitalization. Be creative and let the people requesting a high productivity know that it cannot be done with ethical care.  If a high demands continue to be placed on you maybe it’s time to look for a new job.

5.  Don’t be afraid to ask for an instrumental evaluation.

Just like our patients deserve the best care possible they also deserve the best assessment possible. Research has shown us that various aspects of the bedside clinical swallow a valuation are merely guesses.  The only way to evaluate the oropharyngeal swallow after the mouth is closed is through instrumental assessment. Dr. James Coyle has often stated that a bedside clinical assessment is merely a series of screens.

6.  Stop being afraid of aspiration.

When an instrumental screen is completed, it is not just to see aspiration or penetration.  We’re looking at the anatomy and physiology of the swallow.  If a patient aspirates during an instrumental study that does not mean it’s time to stop the study.  That means it’s time to investigate the why the person is aspirating and see if you can help to stop the aspiration.  Remember that there are functional aspirators that may never develop respiratory compromise.  If you focus on aspiration, there are so many other deficits of the swallow you may miss.

7.  It’s time to dispel those myths.

Let’s make 2017 the year we dispel those old dysphagia myths.

A chin tuck does not always eliminate aspiration.  In fact, it often CAUSES aspiration.

Runny nose and watery eyes in isolation are not indicators of aspiration.

A drop in oxygen saturation and checking temperature following meals have no proven link to aspiration.

Cervical auscultation has not been found to be a reliable assessment for aspiration or dysphagia.

Deep Pharyngeal Neuromuscular Stimulation (DPNS) still has no published peer-reviewed research to support its use.

However you choose to ring in the new year, let’s make 2017 a great year for Speech Language Pathologists assessing and treating patients with dysphagia!  What are some of your professional goals for this year?

 

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