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Speech Pathology Student Reflection

Thanks to Speech Pathology student, Jenelle, for providing us with a reflection of her recent placement experience.

I had the honour and privilege to spend the morning with the dental students from the University of Sydney as they conducted dental checks with residents from an aged care facility in Ballina.

Having not had a lot of experience working alongside others from another discipline, I was reluctant to get myself involved in what they were doing. I saw that the students had a lot of tools, instruments and paperwork that needed to be filled out, so I was prepared to sit quietly at the table and let them do their work.

As the first resident was wheeled in and brought to the table, I watched the dental students introduce themselves and begin to take a case history. It was during this time that I realised that communication with a resident that has dementia is not as straightforward a process as one can imagine. As the students were asking questions, the resident would stare blankly at them and not give an answer. It was then that I decided to take part and work together as a team with the dental students in helping them to communicate with the resident.

As a Speech Pathology student, I was able to demonstrate strategies for communication with persons with dementia. For example, strategies such as speaking louder because they are hard of hearing, simplifying what you ask them, using exaggerated facial expressions and non-verbal cues such as using your hands, slowing down your speech, giving them time to respond, and sitting and facing them rather than standing up when addressing the resident. I noticed that the dental students would watch me in how I interacted with the resident and then they would start to interact in the same manner. In using these and other strategies, we collaborated together and as a team we were able to help reassure and address the resident’s dental concerns in a friendly and professional way.

This was a memorable experience for me as this was a clear demonstration of how the interaction of two health professions working together can collectively improve the overall quality of care for the patient/client/resident.

This was a lesson not to be learned in a textbook or heard in a lecture but needed to be felt and realised in the real world. For me, multidisciplinary practice is the way of the future – the resident’s experience was only made better for having more than one health professional caring about their needs. The resident was able to communicate their needs and feelings, and in doing so, the purpose of their dental check was purposeful, person-centered and progressive.