Speech-language pathologists are recognized medical professionals whose contribution is of vital importance in medical settings. Communication is important for every human being, regardless of their age, physical or emotional setting, a factor that makes speech-language pathologists’ therapies essential in medical settings. Here, they work together with other medical professionals to execute care plans for different types of patients, ranging from the premature infants to the elderly, victims of traumatic accidents, and patients suffering from chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s disease (Mashima & Doarn, 2008). Due to variance in nature of care required and disease symptoms of a patient, the roles and services offered by a speech-language pathologist vary with the health settings, but all focus on evaluating, diagnosing and treatment of communication, and swallowing disorders in individuals of all ages.
Speech-language pathologists address progressive neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease which may persist throughout an individual’s life. Since some progressive neurological conditions may progress gradually while others may occur at a faster rate, the language pathologists provide a variety of adjustment techniques. Dysarthria is a speech disorder that can be described by slowed speech and challenges in coordination when attempting to converse. The speech-language pathologists target strategies to improve a patient’s control in speech processes such as pitch.
The main role of speech-language pathologists involves evaluating speech and language impediments, and, consequently, employing the relevant procedures to treat the identified problem. Therefore, these professionals are tasked with the recovery of speech capacity. SLPs, therefore, devise treatment strategies aimed at reducing impairment in the patients, for example, through repetitive activities and recommending verbal and non-verbal communication strategies that do not rely on complex motor functions. One of the methods employed here includes the melodic intonation therapies where some aphasic patients find it easier to sing words rather than to pronounce them normally. Other techniques such as the use of sign language, hand gestures, and use of pictures or symbols are also applied. In dysarthria, for example, which is a speech disorder associated with neuromotor dysfunction and verbal communication interference, an SLP personnel can guide the patient on how to use less tiring but successful communication methods, or design ways of improving consistency of sound production. In this manner, the SLP personnel take on the services of a communication specialist with the patient, seeking to enhance their auditory processing skills, verbal and written expressions, memory, auditory and reading comprehension levels, as well as problem solving and organization skills.
In an acute care hospital setting, SLPs serve as a specialty resource for the doctors and other professionals in charge of managing the immediate needs of the patient in the areas of speech, language disorders, or swallowing. They are, thus, expected to be familiar with medical terminologies employed in these settings to function effectively in collaboration with the critical care teams in the environment. Some of the common issues the patients have in this setting include respiratory system issues, stroke, traumatic or head injuries, and thus, the professional must be able to make a diagnosis rapidly and then use the findings to recommend the appropriate treatment, which could range from surgery to long-term therapy.
Besides, SLPs may be required to work with medical imaging specialists in the interpretation of CT scans, X-rays, or videofluoroscopic images (Peladeau-Pigeon & Steele, 2013). Once the patient is out of immediate danger, SLPs working in long-term care settings are tasked with conducting follow-up treatment plans for patients, helping them regain speech, language, or their swallowing ability. Here, they work in the management of dysphagia and other risks such as chocking, for example, in stroke patients or aspiration. They, therefore, employ muscular and postural therapies and in extreme cases may recommend surgery to bypass the pharynx or the oral cavity. SLP personnel are especially required to conduct a thorough evaluation of patients at risk of dysphagia because the impaired swallowing can lead to significant morbidity and mortality rates.
In addition, speech-language pathologists contribute indirectly to the rehabilitation of patients. One of the main ways they perform this role is educating the family and significant others to ensure they interact positively with the client, and thus, promote the rehabilitation process. Some professionals here are also tasked with the design of communication aids and computer-based apparatus used by the patients in their treatment. They also have to advocate for their clients or patients in the community, this serving as a strategy for improving their recovery or treatment outcomes.