Case study

Speech and language therapist — Chloe Baker

Chloe recommends getting as much clinical experience as possible before applying for a speech and language therapy degree course

How did you get your job as a speech and language therapist?

After graduating with a degree in speech and language therapy from Cardiff Metropolitan University, I'm now working as a speech and language therapist (SLT) within an adult learning disability team that consists of SLTs, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists.

I applied for my job through the NHS jobs website. The recruitment process consisted of completing a personal statement and attending an interview. It's vital that you show passion for your chosen field in your personal statement, as there are often many more applicants than posts available.

What's a typical working day like as an SLT?

As a newly qualified SLT, I provide support for the assessment, diagnosis and management of a range of communication difficulties. Due to the range of clients that we support, our days vary and can change very quickly.

Assessing the communication skills of a client with a learning disability can require a lot of imagination and flexibility. Due to associated physical impairments, many clients can't access formal assessments that are often used with other client populations, such as clients that have had a stroke. For example, clients with quadriplegic cerebral palsy can find it difficult to move their arms to point to a target on a page. For these clients, we might use 'eye pointing' to help them give a response.

The intervention we provide can also vary greatly, depending on the level of communication difficulty. Strategies we use include communication passports, communication books and boards, objects of reference, visual timetables, signing, intensive interaction, switches, eye-gaze and high-tech devices.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Working with adults with learning disabilities is extremely rewarding. It's wonderful to watch a client's confidence flourish as a result of your input.

What are the challenges?

At times it can be challenging liaising with all the multidisciplinary agencies involved in a client's care. As it's important that each setting a client attends uses the same communication strategies, regular training and meetings are arranged to ensure a consistent approach.

It can also be challenging working with clients with profound and multiple learning disabilities as they often have a number of associated health needs.

How relevant is your degree?

Studying speech and language therapy gave me the practical skills and theoretical knowledge to practice as an effective SLT. The course at Cardiff Metropolitan University is taught by an enthusiastic team of lecturers with a range of clinical specialisms. It has well-established links with the NHS, enabling students to undertake a variety of clinical placements in both adult and paediatric settings.

This hands-on experience enabled me to develop my clinical skills in assessing and treating a diverse number of client populations.

How has your role developed?

I've recently been given the opportunity to commence dysphagia training. This means that I'm being upskilled in order to assess and manage clients with swallowing disorders/difficulties. I feel very lucky to be receiving this training so early in my career; it's something I've always found interesting and hope to specialise in it in the future.

What advice can you give to others?

Get as much clinical experience as possible. Try to find volunteering experience within the field you want to work. For example, you could volunteer with the Stroke Association as a stroke group supporter and help run meetings for stroke survivors.

Join the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists as a student member to gain access to a variety of clinical resources and journals. Also join and attend a Clinical Excellence Network for something that interests you. These are great ways to network and gain a better insight into a specific field of practice.

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