Providing opportunities to experience the fast-paced work environment in a medical setting is invaluable to graduate students in the Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) department at Illinois State University. We have been able to do just that through a collaboration with BroMenn Medical Center. Brittany Kennedy, ’11, M.S. ’13, speech-language pathologist and Illinois State University alumna, works in the rehabilitation unit at BroMenn Advocate Medical Center and initiated a collaboration with CSD.
Patients receive speech language therapy during hospital rehabilitation stays for a variety of causes. Some may have communication deficits due to a stroke. Others may suffer cognitive deficits following a traumatic brain injury. Others may present with cognitive and communication deficits associated with dementia. Working in a group situation with patients who present with varied needs can be a challenge. In the fall 2018 semester, four CSD graduate students completed an independent study investigating how to create therapy groups for diverse patients receiving in-patient rehabilitation. After completing their research, the students created four modules that target skills such as attention, word finding, memory and executive function skills. These modules continue to be used to facilitate a weekly one-hour therapy group for patients, in addition to the individual treatment they are receiving. Patients participate in activities that involve planning an event, predicting prices of everyday items from past, present and future, as well as discussing current events. In the hospital setting, it can be difficult to anticipate the group dynamic because the caseloads can change from day to day.
Through this experience the CSD students are learning how to manage those changes. Some weeks they may have to figure out how to run a “group” with only one participant. Other weeks, there may be four individuals all with varying levels of severity. In addition to working directly with the patients, this experience provides the students an opportunity to explain the rationale for their activity to patient’s family members. Working in the medical setting can be intimidating for graduate students. This collaboration is helping our students gain the confidence to know they are ready and up to their next challenge.