The Vocal Point

Keep it at Baseline: Basic Principles of Patient Care

Speech Pathologists tend to wear many hats. Sometimes you are your patients emotional support therapist, a nurses’ assistant, a playdate for the EI kids, the person who helps people talk or sometimes you’re the nice lady who brings food. Despite the different hats that are assigned to us by others, one thing is for sure- as Speech Pathologist we are ALWAYS our patients’ advocates.

It is crucial to know our patients- at least the basics. Extensive chart reviews are so important but so is connecting with your patient and ensuring you are providing the best patient care possible. Questions to as yourself when reviewing your patients chart include:

-Why is the patient here?

-What are important medical diagnosis I should know? How does this affect my patients’ day to day?

-What was the patients’ baseline prior to the admission (if working in a hospital)?

-Who is involved in the patients’ care?

-What’s the plan upon discharge?

-What are my patients’ goals and wishes?

-What studies have been conducted already?

Take a minute and imagine yourself in a hospital bed. Now imagine your doctor coming in and telling you that you’ve had a massive stroke that’s affected your ability to talk and eat. You are in shock. You can’t even tell the doctor how you feel. You notice a tube in your nose. The doctor tells you that while you are in the hospital, this is how you will be fed and further discussions need to be had. You are panicking. You didn’t want any of this. You have a will you set-up in case anything happened to you. The hospital should know this. How will you let them know? Will you ever eat again? Does your boss know you are in the hospital? Oh no! You had to pick up your son from baseball practice? Did someone inform your spouse? How long have you been in the hospital?

You can stop and breathe now. Scary right?

As an SLP that is still learning but has been in the field for a bit, one piece of advice I’d like to give you is take the time to know your patient. You might be the only person who can advocate for them. Take the time to learn about their diagnosis and how it will affect their everyday life. Take the time to dig deep and learn about their plans and wishes. If a case is hard- ask for help. It’s ok not to know everything. The field of Speech Pathology is consistently evolving which means we are life long learners. Imagine if doctors today were still practicing the same way they were in the 1800s (oh man!). Pick up the phone and call that family member. Look up that rare diagnosis. Get the medical interdisciplinary team involved. Participate in the care plan meeting. Conduct the swallow instrumental and discuss all the options. Take the continuing education course on that topic you want to learn more about. All these things are an important part of our job. These principles should not be misconstrued as the “gold standard ” but should be the basic practices of dedicated clinicians.

What’s your baseline? Share any comments below!

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