Speech and language therapists work with people who have difficulties with speech, language and communication and/or are experiencing swallowing, eating and drinking problems.
Speech and language therapists are qualified health professionals, who must be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). They assess, treat and support people of all ages. They work closely with other health and education practitioners such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, medical staff and teachers.
My name's Claire Campbell and I'm a speech and language therapist.
We work with people who have difficulties with communication and with their swallowing.
They can often be struggling, you know, their mood can be really low because, for a lot of people, their life has changed so dramatically, so quickly, with no warning. Often, it's a very difficult time for them and their families. So, we're trying to support them, but also take into account everything else that's going on in their life as well.
Patients are most typically referred to us by nursing staff or medical staff on the wards, who notice that something has altered, that the person isn't communicating as they normally would, or they're having difficulties with swallowing.
We would do an assessment of their swallowing, which would involve a bit of discussion as to what they think the problem is. We would look at how all of the muscles in their mouth are working and we would give them small amounts of diet and fluid and palpate their swallow, feel their swallow, to see how we feel the muscles are working.
We would observe them, we would look at their breathing and how they're managing to produce voice afterwards. That would tell us whether their swallow is safe or whether there might be something going down towards their lungs. We can feel that a lot of the time by looking at somebody and feeling their swallow.
When I was 16, my mum told me a should be a speech and language therapist. I didn't listen to my mum, because I was 16, and I studied psychology. I had a job working with young children. I supported children with behavioural difficulties. I worked as a nursing assistant for a time, which made me realise how much I enjoyed the hospital environment.
I shadowed a speech and language therapist who I'd met at work because I thought that her job sounded interesting. That's how I decided, how I knew I wanted to be a speech and language therapist.