Lots of people hear the term “speech therapist” and instantly think of someone who helps kids speak more clearly. So what are they doing in a hospital? How do they help with adults? Let’s take a closer look at what the role of a speech therapist is in a medical setting.

Speech therapists, or speech-language pathologists (SLPs), have various skillsets to help people of different ages and diagnoses. They work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in both children and adults. Whew! That’s a mouthful. I bet you never realized all the things a speech therapist does!

SLPs also work in many different settings- education, research, and healthcare. They have varying roles, levels of responsibility, and client populations. In many settings, SLPs often work as part of a collaborative, interdisciplinary team, which may include a wide variety of members.

In the hospital setting, SLPs work closely with physicians, dietitians, case managers, physical and occupational therapists, and respiratory therapists. Together, the team creates and initiates short and long term goals to increase a patient’s quality of life and independence. SLPs primarily focus on communication and swallowing. Talking and eating are important aspects of life that many of us take for granted, and they are two areas that greatly impact a person’s overall outlook and quality of life.

At Acuity Specialty Hospital, SLPs may work on communication and swallowing with patients who have experienced lots of different diagnoses. Here’s a list of some but not all:

  • COPD
  • Confusion
  • Dementia
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Neurological disorders
  • Poor appetite
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Ventilator/ tracheostomy dependence

For more information on the roles and responsibilities of an SLP, visit the American Speech-Language Hearing Association website at https://www.asha.org/public/

Lynette Lattin, MS, CCC-SLP and a former patient spending time together!