Spring Semester in review, Part 1

This semester is officially over, as my grades are all complete.  Here is the breakdown of what I learned this semester, broken up into three posts, so as not to be too hard on the eyes, and allow me to be as wordy as I want.

Dysphagia: Final grade A, 100%

This was a great class!  My knowledge base of dysphagia (disorder of swallowing) was very, very shallow when we started, so I anticipated it would be a hard class, as I had a lot to learn.  While I definitely learned a lot, this professor is great, and it was presented in a way that made it easy to learn. I know I mentioned it in an earlier blog post this semester, but learning about the swallow was fascinating and fun!

In this class, we had a midterm, a final, several smaller assignments (writing responses to a video, for example), an anatomy quiz, and the clinical exam, where we had to perform the exam under supervision of an SLP.  That was the most difficult part, because I had to arrange it on my own, not a strength of mine.  What finally happened was that I did the exam at work, and asked an SLP who works at a different school, but has years of hospital work and still does PRN at the hospital, to supervise.  It ended up being a great experience!  This was not a new diagnosis, but this child recently had some diet changes, his teacher had asked me some questions, and it seemed the perfect time to learn more about him.  The school SLP does not really often get involved in swallowing treatment, but I learned about ways that I can be involved, and how I can be an advocate for swallowing safety at school, along with things I can do to help facilitate growth, even though I’m not likely going to do actual swallowing treatment. (though, to be sure, I think the ability to swallow safely has a pretty profound educational impact!)

Anyway, I did the exam the day the project was due, in true form. I’d call it procrastination, but I feel like it’s not quite that, when every moment is filled.  It’s just a matter of prioritizing what has to be done when, and this didn’t have to be done until that point.  I spent the rest of the semester preparing and learning what I needed to know.  I write quickly, so the actual write-up of the 5-page paper was possible.  And clearly it went well, as I did get full credit.

Do I feel prepared to take on dysphagia cases in a clinical setting?  Well, yes and no.  I would have a pretty steep learning curve if I was thrown into a situation where I had no one else to consult, but that won’t happen.  That’s what the clinical externship placement will be for–to give me the experience in a situation where I’m still learning.  However, I definitely have the background now to be able to do a lot!  I know the anatomy and physiology.  I know what might be going wrong.  I know how to do the bedside swallow exam.  I know about treatment techniques, and how to decide which technique would be appropriate.  I learned about treatment from NICU to Skilled Nursing Facilities.  I know about how the Modified Barium Swallow Study works, along with the Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing.  However, I have not performed either of them, nor have I seen them performed, or any other instrumental evaluation.  That is where I hope to gain experience in my hospital placement (probably Summer 2012).

In learning more about dysphagia, I also found a great Facebook page about Dysphagia Therapy, where I have also learned a lot.  Also, for our final our class created a resource guide for many web pages, books, blogs, products, classes, and CEU options related to dysphagia.  It’s great to leave the class with something else so practical.  In the field of SLP in general, including dysphagia, it is critical to keep up with continuing education.  The treatment of dysphagia is always growing  by continued research and study.  I look forward to many years of learning more, now that I have the knowledge to be able to learn more from these sources.

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