June is Dysphagia Awareness month. May is Better Hearing and Speech Month. This is great, it really is. I love that we finally have a month. Dysphagia Awareness is so needed and so necessary in our field. We seriously need to have Dysphagia Awareness Day, everyday. Dysphagia is such a critical area in Speech Language Pathology.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many patients I have that have never heard of dysphagia. When my patients have trouble with swallowing, they always tell me, I never knew that was a thing!
We, as Speech Language Pathologists have a responsibility to all of our patients every single day.
Keep Current with Research and Techniques
-Keep current with research and assessment/treatment techniques. You wouldn’t go to a dentist that has used the same techniques for 20 years because “they’ve worked for 20 years.” Times change and sometimes we find out that a certain technique doesn’t exactly target what we thought it did. Stop being so complacent with your therapy. Sure, it’s easy to have a ready-made sheet of exercises that you’ve given out for 20 years. Sometimes, it takes stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying something new with your patient!
-Continue to learn!! I was once told be a colleague that they didn’t need to go to anymore dysphagia courses because this person has been treating dysphagia for YEARS and has learned everything there is to learn. Even researchers continue to learn and explore dysphagia, so there is really nobody on this earth that knows everything there is to know about dysphagia!
Informed Consent Not Scared Compliance
-Stop scaring your patient into compliance! First off, I hate the word compliance and I’m not sure why I typed it, other than that’s the word that is used in our profession. We do a great job of scaring patients and their families into thinking that if they don’t do what we say, they will aspirate and die. Often, patients are assessed and placed on alternate diets while the are sick and still hospitalized. I can’t even tell you how many times the person is released to home and their swallow improves. They are so scared at that point to try anything new or stray from the ready-made list of 800 exercises they were given.
Learn from Others
-Learn from PT and OT. They don’t sit and observe patients walk, bathe and fall. They actually put their hands on patients, assess their movements, assess the accuracy of how they perform tasks and then work with the patient to increase accuracy and safety of that task. It’s frustrating to continue to see and hear of SLPs that sit in the dining room with patients EVERY SINGLE SESSION and watch them eat.
Keep Dysphagia Therapy Part of Our Job
-Let’s keep dysphagia in the Speech Pathology realm! This is such an important area for our patients. Let’s teach them and let them be included on the decisions for their care. Tell them why they are doing certain exercises. What muscles are we targeting and why. Let them be a part of the decision of diet consistency.
Make Dysphagia Awareness an everyday event! What can you do to share awareness of dysphagia and what we do as SLPs to assess and treat dysphagia.
1.) Pass out educational material on dysphagia and what we as SLPs do to help. Make sure there is evidence to support us.
2.) Create a quiz for others to complete with a gift card as a prize. Even a $5 gift card is worth the effort!
3.) Plan a 5-10 minute in-service for staff to let them know what we do and why we do it.
4.) Work with companies to host a luncheon and invite your patients with dysphagia past and present. Success stories are always a great boost. (I did this with my VitalStim representative.) Invite your rehab managers or any of the top-dogs at your company.
5.) Create a bulletin board to stay up for the entire month.
6.) Write a story for your local newspaper.
7.) Speak at a local university. This may be for other medical professionals such as nursing students so that they understand what we do.
8.) Start a local journal club. Invite your local SLPs. Find a fun way to keep up on research. Also, if everyone in the club has access to Perspectives, the ASHA SIG journals, you can all read the articles in Perspectives for free CEUs.
9.) Call your local new channel or reach out to the on social media to see if there is any interest on doing a story on Speech Language Pathology and dysphagia.