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Reflections upon emerging from the first wave

As we emerge from this first wave of the COVID19 pandemic it feels like a good chance to reflect on how these last weeks have impacted upon us. Never before in our professional careers have we needed to be so adaptable, finding new ways to provide the best possible care for our patients in the midst of so many obstacles and restrictions. We’ve learned quickly and we’ve shared generously our knowledge, ideas and resources. That adaptability will prepare us for the new landscape as we enter a protracted period of dealing with this virus.

The setting up of NHS Nightingale Hospitals epitomizes the urgency to prepare we all felt in those first weeks. Our podcast with Dr Jackie McRae gave a wonderful insight into working in this unique NHS setting. She worked as part of a small team of speech and language therapists alongside Jodi Allen, Gabrielle Rossano and Nicole Murray.

Several points shone out from Jackie’s interview. Firstly, her firm advocacy that speech and language therapists should stand up and be proud that we have a truly clear role as part of the critical care multi-disciplinary team. Yes, we have the capability to step out of our traditional role when required but our expertise in upper airway anatomy, respiratory and neurological functions and how they impact on communication, swallowing and ultimately quality of life is unique. Mouthcare when carried out by a SLT, as well as providing necessary care, becomes a pragmatic assessment allowing anticipation of problems of speech, swallow, and respiratory function.

Jackie’s description of NHS Nightingale’s culture of compassion and learning combined with a determination to put staff well-being as a priority was interesting. It felt like the NHS getting back in touch with its roots. She describes some of the simple measures put in place at the Nightingale, for example, enforced work breaks, provision of free refreshments showing that small measures can be powerful in sustaining morale.

Do enjoy listening to Jackie’s podcast. You will discover some of the resources she found helpful (contacts listed below), how the team dealt with limited family involvement and her reflections on how our profession may change because of this pandemic.

In our next blog we will have an update on how we are going to manage voice disorders in the next phase of this journey. We will reflect on how guidelines have moved on since our discussion with Bari Hoffman, Jane Shaw and Mark Watson.

Key listening points for our SVS PodChat with Dr Jackie McRae:

07.00 mins: Setting up

10.53 mins: Patient presentation

13.20 mins: Barriers in returning to oral intake

27.14 mins: Reflections on working in full PPE

24.05 mins: Working with limited family involvement.

32.00 mins: Resilience and Nightingale culture

Resources mentioned: Claire Ryan bespoke communication charts Claire Ryan @Claire_R123

Hannah Chambers – photo representation of oro-motor assessments. Hannah Chambers @HannahSLT19




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