Speech and Language Therapy placements in the time of Covid-19

health care professional wearing ppeThis year has been different to say the least. It has been constantly changing due to the change in regulations impacting how our teaching is carried out. At the beginning of the year, we would have 1 day a week on campus and I really looked forward to these days. It was a chance to come in, get a change of scenery but most importantly catch up with everyone on the course, even if we were all sat socially distanced. Most of the lectures were still online though and this did take some getting use to, but the lecturers at Marjon are amazing they really take your feedback on board and work with you to make these sessions as interesting and accessible as possible.

For most of the modules we would watch pre-recorded lectures prior to the virtual seminar we would have with our lecturer. During the seminars we have further lectures, have guest speakers, complete activities and take part in group work.
I think the hardest thing about this year has been making sure I take time off for myself. As I do all my work at my desk in my room and I relax in my room too it is easy to blur the line. I find myself thinking, ‘well, I should probably just do some more work’ and end up not taking a proper break. Or I am massively distracted because I don’t have to physically leave all my distractions behind like I would if I was going into a lecture.

Going on placement

I have recently finished a four-week block placement in Bournemouth. And it was incredible!

I volunteered for a in-person placement (as oppose to teletherapy which is a placement where you work with patients over an online meeting) in an acute setting. I am so pleased I did.

I got to live in Bournemouth for a month. I don’t think there was much difference to placement before pandemic times – as far as I could tell the only differences I experienced was having to wear a mask all day, wearing an apron and face shield, doing a lateral flow test twice a week. Some of the patients had covid which meant wearing extra PPE but I didn’t actually see any of these patients.

In my first week I really struggled, the stroke ward is a really busy place! After a year of not being around this many people or this much noise I was massively overwhelmed. But after the first week this settled down and I was given some amazing opportunities. I got to take part in lots of dysphagia sessions (dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties), carry out language assessment, make session plans for dysarthria therapy and then carry out these sessions independently.

I also got to work with other professionals like the physios and occupational therapist, go on ward rounds with the doctors and met some really amazing patients who despite everything were looking on the bright side!

It was more difficult at times, you aren’t able to rely on your facial expression as much when speaking to a patient as they can literally just see your eyes. So you have to vocalise a lot more than usual! I also felt like I was shouting at everyone, which I probably was but trying to be heard through several layers of PPE, over the top of the general noise of a ward and by some someone with hearing loss anyway is really hard.

All in all I had an amazing time and am so pleased I took up the opportunity to do an in-person placement.

Betony Brock, BSc (Hons) Speech and Language Therapy

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