Tag: speech language pathology

Conflicting Emotions

Conflicting Emotions

by Marguerite Mullaney, MS CCC-SLP and Lisa Yauch-Cadden, MS CCC-SLP

This entry of REFLECTIONS brings the founders of this website together once again following some disappointing news…

Lisa Yauch-Cadden and I met in 1999 when the SNF world was freezing to death in the new ice age of PPS. I was doing per diem with every company operating in MA because all the full time positions vanished between midnight December 31, 1998 and 12:01 am January 1, 1999. Lisa was the SLP Regional for a company that no longer exists and whose name is better left in the past.

My life was in a spiral. Lisa doesn’t know, at least she didn’t until she read this draft, how close to pulling the plug on my own life I was that winter day in 1999 when we spoke by telephone. The telephone was one of those super heavy Nokias which could be used as a weapon if some ruffian set upon me. I was in more danger from the internal bully egging me on to end my temporary misery with a permanent solution.

I was in the front seat of my car watching the gentle waves of Dorchester Bay near Castle Island in South Boston. Lisa was driving somewhere in southeastern MA. She was giving me a quick run down on what PPS was all about and how it would impact my service delivery.

To be honest, I was only half listening. My mind was stuffed with grief over my father’s death just 19 months before and all the things he left undone: a distraught and broken wife, a physically handicapped son, a mentally ill son, an incarcerated son, and very tiny grandchildren who needed every adult in their little lives who could feign normalcy, to do so. Then there were his bills. Hundreds of thousands of dollars with nobody to pay them except my sister and me. So, the collapse of healthcare and the resultant destruction of my steady, reliable paycheck could not have come at a worse time. Yet, there I sat in the frigid cold front seat of my car, having decided that today I would not just walk into the sweet Atlantic and end it all, listening to the confidence Lisa expressed about the future.

Surely, she was a mad woman.

Her advice resonated though. It made wonderful sense in a world of senseless new rules. The advice was, in fact, brilliant. It gave me a path forward from the professional and personal hole I was being consumed by.

“Just treat your patients. If we all just take care of our patients then everything else will flow from there.”

So, I decided that this SLP radical I was talking to, while she tooled around in the land of Lizzie Borden, might be on to something. And, if she wasn’t, I could always walk into the sea on another, warmer day.

That year, following Lisa’s ‘just treat’ advice, I made more money than in the previous two years or the following year as a full time employee for one company. The success of it went very far in restoring some stability in my still overly complicated life.

Lisa and I didn’t touch base for a few years following that call. The company she worked for folded and her supervisors opened a new group. They were planning to do it right. Patient care first. I initially inquired about work with them but the office manager was kind of … difficult and the pay rate was a little less than ok. But, then after a few months they advertised for a per diem at a place less than 15 minutes from home. I could take a few dollars less and a snippy receptionist for a clean SNF 10 miles from my front door.

Lisa met me on September 15, 2001. The country was in chaos. I was less suicidal than during our previous conversation but everything else in my life was just as complicated. It would have been the 48th birthday of my brother. He died 10 months before, leaving my sister and me heartbroken and lonely. I thought I was meeting Lisa for an interview. Lisa arrived with the employment forms and launched into my Orientation while I filled the materials out. When I asked her if this was an interview, she looked stunned.

“We already know each other. Why rebuild the wheel? Besides, there are patients waiting to be treated.”

So, that first day was Interview, Orientation, an eval and three treats all wrapped into one. It sounds crazy but Lisa’s confidence in “just treat our patients” made it seem silly not to do it the way we had. Besides, it was great to hear that certainty of the path forward again.

For the next two years Lisa and I developed a model which placed one SLP in each SNF. The ratio of therapists to buildings went from one therapist to nine buildings to one therapist per one and a half buildings. We were flourishing and growing. It was amazing. We started a CF program and launched the careers of some truly remarkable therapists. We established clinical relationships that flowed into lasting friendships. So much so, that my Facebook list of friends and family has almost fifty people I met through the company. I am super selective about work people being on my feed because I don’t like to blur lines, so it stunned me when I counted them up yesterday. It was such a period of exciting professional growth that I think of those days when I personally struggled with a family in crisis as some of the happiest days of my adult life.

But, all good things end.

The cash flow wasn’t enough for profit margins. The owners, who once prided themselves with answering the phone in the mornings, hired somebody to GROW the business. That is a euphemism for driving revenue to increase profits at all costs. The new management person quickly ended the homespun, family business approach. All communication went through her. The owners were not allowed to talk directly to staff. They stopped answering the phone. Which was easy for them to do because their sole office staff swelled to more than twenty full time people. Lisa left before me. I wandered away from the management end but lingered to treat. Eventually, the cultural shift drove me away completely.

It is easiest to describe the environment the company became like this: staff in the company office, which they dubbed corporate even though it was not a corporation, behaved as if their jobs would be better if there were no pesky customers and annoying therapist to call and cause them trouble. And, decisions about direct care which are best made by treating therapists and people who actually see the patients were being challenged by people in an office miles way reviewing records. The challenges were never to provide less billable units.

One conversation I had went something like this:

CORPORATE TYPE: The patient needs 50 min by all three therapies today.
me: Can’t do it.
CORPORATE TYPE: It’s your job, you will do it.
me: The patient is sick. I can’t do any minutes with her and neither can the others.
CORPORATE TYPE: Did you check to see if you can do education.
me: I did more than that. I held her hair back while she vomited and I got her a cold cloth for her forehead. None of that is billable. Maybe you should go up and see if she has stopped projectile vomiting yet.
CORPORATE TYPE: I’m not going to do that.
me: Somehow I knew you’d say that.

None of us saw our client that day for treatment. We all spent time with her trying to keep her comfortable which was nice for both her and the nurses. She passed away that night. So, the minutes not given to treatment didn’t matter even one little bit. I called the corporate type to let her know. She was unmoved by the news.

So, why am I babbling about a job I left in 2007? The FBI raided their offices on Thursday.

I met some of my best friends at that company. Lisa is not only a friend but she is a business partner and mentor and all around reasonable voice in an unreasonable world. The work she and I did there was life changing for staff and patients alike. The care model we developed is still being used by the national companies who won contracts at the homes our former company lost. So much to be proud of. So much to be grateful for.

Yet, today I am embarrassed to have the name of that company on my résumé.

It is unreasonable to feel this way. I left long before the rumors about ethical decline really picked up steam. My story pales in comparison to some of the war stories others have told.

Still, I don’t like how close my name sits to their name on the annotated history of my career.

It has yet to be determined if there is anything to the allegations. The FBI under the direction of OIG is investigating. There have been no findings to date. We are a country of laws. Innocent until proven guilty is the cornerstone of our due process. I firmly believe this to be true.

But, I feel betrayed by the news of the investigation.

I am left wondering how a company that started with the goal of doing it right, and was so single minded about patient care that it pulled me back from the brink of self annihilation, could end up with armed FBI agents storming in the front door to remove boxes and computers.

How did the owners let all those good people I met there, who they had the good sense to hire, down? How did they lose the key to greatness? How did they let themselves be lead astray from just taking care of our patients?

How?

And the answer to that question of course is…MONEY. Money lead them astray and locked the door to greatness. Money let down the staff and the supervisors. Money tried to tell clinicians how to treat their patients. And Money forgot that patients and clinicians are people and need to be treated with respect.

When I began in the company, it was as Marguerite described: owners with simple, straightforward ideas about how to build a better mousetrap. Establish strong relationships with your contracts and staff. Do the right thing. Treat the patients according to their needs. Follow the rules. When you make a mistake own it and when your staff make a mistake, stand behind them.

When I spoke with Marguerite over the phone all those years ago, I believed what I said. If you treat the patients, the rest will follow. I still believe that. The best way to make money is to do a good job. If you want to make more money, do a better job and if you want to make the most money, do the best job of all of your competitors. What this means to me is that you understand your patients’ problems, you know how to treat them, you exhaust all possibilities in your quest to help them get better and you understand their funding source as it applies to your services.

I think where people may go astray is in their determination of how much money is enough. How much do you need to be successful? How many corners can you cut in the name of efficiency? When do your cuts compromise patient care and how long will it be before those cuts compromise your integrity?
And that is the slippery slope on which so many clinicians have found themselves.

The changes in healthcare have made it harder for clinicians to stand against the tide. I think this is particularly true for SLPs. Rarely is our supervisor in any setting an SLP. When we have a concern, who is there to stand up for us? Who understands our perspective?

A few years ago, I was looking for a new job. I did a phone interview for a large rehab company. I was told that none of their regional supervisors in New England was an SLP. My immediate, uncensored reaction was “That’s outrageous!” I suspect that the OT that was interviewing me at the time did not share my view because I never heard from that company again. But it is outrageous.

When Marguerite talks about the systems we set up, the programs we created and the staff we trained, one of the things we prided ourselves on was making sure our staff knew that we did not want them to do anything they were not comfortable doing, and if someone was asking them to do something that didn’t seem right, they needed to:
1). not do it, and
2). inform us so that we could look into it.

But that is harder now. Our economy requires job security. It is not so easy to walk out defiantly and directly into another position. And healthcare is changing. But that shouldn’t mean our core values have to change.

I sincerely hope that the investigation into our former employer turns up empty; that the founding principles of the company to which I devoted so much of my career remain intact. When I left, I was proud of the work I had done.
No one can take that away.

About the Authors
Marguerite Mullaney was born and raised in and around the Boston area. She continues to make her home in the Commonweath and rarely finds it necessary to travel beyond the 128 belt. Her undergraduate program was completed at Bridgewater State College and she attended Northeastern University for graduate school. Adult neurological disorders has been the primary focus of her clinical practice. Her vast knowledge of the field, thoughtful, pragmatic approach and incredible sense of humor have enlightened and inspired her patients, staff and colleagues for over 20 years. Contact Marguerite at mullaneycccslp@comcast.net.

Lisa Yauch-Cadden was born and raised in the Detroit, Michigan area. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a Master’s in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Michigan. She has worked as an SLP in nearly all facets of the field: skilled nursing facilities, home care, acute care, transitional care, medical offices and schools. Throughout her career as a therapist, manager and business owner, Lisa has never strayed from providing direct line service, including state of the art evaluations using FEES/FEESST and MBS. While she needs no accolades to do her job, she is deserving of many. Her tireless efforts to advance the best clinical practices in Speech Language Pathology have changed lives for her patients, her clinical fellows, and those of us lucky enough to work with her on a regular basis. Contact Lisa at lycslp@gmail.com. ……

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Look at what was in the bottom of the suitcase!

Look at what was in the bottom of the suitcase!

We’re midflight heading for ASHA 2012 ATLANTA and reminiscing about ASHAs of Novembers past.  Digging into our suitcase, we’ve found sage words of advice from trusted colleagues and a few laugh out loud suggestions to brighten any gray treatment afternoon.

George implores us to be Creative!  be Functional! Explore ALL the possibilities.

Build trust first – wise words from Julie.

Ginia has a delicious suggestion for bringing food to your session. And, few confections are better than ice cream.

Peter Boyle said, life is about finding the funny.  Don’t forget that at the therapy room door – smile, be humorous, stay positive.

Three words: practice, practice, practice.

Trust your gut.

Bracketology comes to us from Andy.  Andy, email us. We are interested learning more about this sports themed technique.

Pamela noted to get to know the neighborhood, for our home health based therapists. We would like to add, please do this during daylight hours and try not to look too suspicious.

Then there are the unusual suspects:

  •  Shaker Exercises.
  •  Oral Motor Exercises.
  • Kim suggested Exercise Physiology.  If you are reading this Kim, please contact us.  We need to know MORE!
  • Entire World of R.      Poor X; overlooked again.

And, when all else fails, Jenny recommends, laying on the floor and let them come to you.…

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When Rehab Came to Long-Term Care

When Rehab Came to Long-Term Care

For this entry of REFLECTIONS, the founders of this website decided to take a moment to reflect on our own careers in the field of Speech Language Pathology, particularly that portion that brought us together.

Way back in the very late 1980s/very early 1990s, we were both moonlighting as contractors in long-term care.  We had both come from in-patient rehab settings working with brain-injured adults and were looking to expand our skills.  Back then, SLP’s were required only on an ‘as needed’ basis in nursing homes. PT’s were required 6 hours a month and OTs were regulated to 4 hours.  There were no rehab teams, because rehab didn’t happen in nursing homes.  Nursing homes were for custodial nursing care.  If a patient had a problem, the home would call us. We would swoop in, do an evaluation and leave a long (sometimes very long) list of recommendations for the nurses to carry out.  We didn’t treat the problem.  Follow up was PRN – at the request of the nurse – if the problem didn’t resolve, given our extensive recommendations.  Thinking back, it is shocking how much we didn’t do.  Even more surprising was the fact that the head injury facility where one of us worked full time (in a department that included two other full time SLPs and two full-time SLP-As) actually occupied three wings of a four wing long-term care facility, and in five years of providing full time care, our department was called to the nursing home wing only once.

Then things changed.  In order to cut costs and defer care away from high priced hospitals, insurance companies and the federal government’s medical insurance plan, Medicare, began to reimburse nursing homes for rehabilitative care.  It was pretty much a pass through arrangement which allowed nursing homes to charge a fee for rehabilitation services which Medicare then paid.  This opened up huge opportunities for nursing homes and contract rehabilitation companies that provided rehab staff
(PTs, OTs and SLPs) to nursing homes.  This was now the mid 1990s and we found ourselves setting up departments and policies and feeding programs and language therapy in facilities that had never had them.

A population we always thought we’d just dabble in, in a setting no one ever liked, we began to love.  And then we started to teach other people (students and CFYs) to love it.  Senior citizens are awesome.  They are wise and hilarious and generous and aggravating. They allowed us into their home (the nursing facility) so that we could care for them.  It was a joy to see them improve, heartbreaking when they didn’t and an honor to shepherd them through difficult times as they approached the end of life.  The process transformed traditional nursing homes where people went to die into skilled care facilities where people lived, got better, sometimes went home or stayed and lived their lives in a place they could call home.

Then came more change.  Enter the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.  The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 was an omnibus legislative package enacted to balance the federal budget by 2002.  The Act resulted in $160 billion in spending reductions between 1998 and 2002 with Medicare cuts responsible for $112 billion of that total.  This became the real test of our love of long-term care.  We now of course, had to do more with less, but this is also when our programs started to grow and coordinate with nursing and our fellow rehab professionals.  We were a smaller more mobile band of therapists working hard to treat a population that viewed the nursing home as a short-term stop on their road to recovery. Before our entry into rehab in long-term care, no one would have ever thought that a patient would return to the community once they entered a nursing home.  Now today, most rehabilitation following surgery, strokes or general hospitalization happens in nursing homes for people over 55.

As we look back/reflect on this part of our careers, we are pleased to have been a part of the group of professionals who changed how healthcare was provided in the US. Our work extended care to millions of neglected older Americans warehoused in institutions. We improved their lives in terms of survival and opportunities to return home. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a nursing home in the U.S., accepting Medicare dollars that does not have an SLP as part of their team. It has been our privilege to participate in this leap forward in service delivery to provide a better quality of life for our Nation’s most valuable living treasures: our parents and grandparents.

About the Authors

Marguerite Mullaney was born and raised in and around the Boston area. She continues to make her home in the Commonweath and rarely finds it necessary to travel beyond the 128 belt. Her undergraduate program was completed at Bridgewater State College and she attended Northeastern University for graduate school. Adult neurological disorders has been the primary focus of her clinical practice. Her vast knowledge of the field, thoughtful, pragmatic approach and incredible sense of humor have enlightened and inspired her patients, staff and colleagues for over 20 years.  Contact Marguerite at mullaneycccslp@comcast.net.

Lisa Yauch-Cadden was born and raised in the Detroit, Michigan area. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a Master’s in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Michigan. She has worked as an SLP in nearly all facets of the field: skilled nursing facilities, home care, acute care, transitional care, medical offices and schools. Throughout her career as a therapist, manager and business owner, Lisa has never strayed from providing direct line service, including state of the art evaluations using FEES/FEESST and MBS. While she needs no accolades to do her job, she is deserving of many. Her tireless efforts to advance the best clinical practices in Speech Language Pathology have changed lives for her patients, her clinical fellows, and those of us lucky enough to work with her on a regular basis. Contact Lisa at lycslp@gmail.com.

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10s   by Gene Pizzolato, MS CCC-SLP

10s by Gene Pizzolato, MS CCC-SLP

1. Cookie of choice (for bedside swallow exams)
Lorna Doone

2. BDAE or WAB (for language testing)
BDAE

3. PICA +/- (for scoring)

+  Love the PICA!  In fact, I’ve used it for over 30 years with therapy plans and I call it a “Prompt-Cue Score” (PCS) system. After years of applying this format to my plans I considered it to be my own creation, until the PICA comparison was made by this web site’s Co-founder!. In any case my PCS provides me with great data to monitor progress.

4. Muppets or dwarves (for entertainment purposes only)

Muppets

4a. Favorite individual muppet

Fozzie Bear

5. Worst treatment moment of your career.

Medicaid Audit

6. Best advice you ever ignored.

“Don’t ever accept Medicaid payments”

7. Favorite, most reliable and practical treatment strategy.

I find that visual information organization strategies work well to support
information processing, comprehension and expressive language therapy.

8. Why SLP and not world domination?

Less stress

9. Would you do it all over again exactly the same way?

Absolutely not…… well maybe ….. actually “yes” with some adjustments.

 

10. What one thing do you still want to do before your career goals are completely achieved?

To organize my best therapy practices into a package that could be easily shared.

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION IN 30 WORDS (there actually is no word limit really so say whatever you want).

Gene Pizzolato, MS CCC SLP is a graduate of Columbia University and has been in private practice for 30 years. Specializing in working with school age children and adults with developmental disabilities, Gene has been a pioneer in the collaborative approach to treatment. Always a man of vision, Gene has been able to adapt his practice to meet the changing needs of the healthcare and school based communities as well as to continue to expand his clinical skills. As a mentor to countless students and new clinicians, Gene has entertained and inspired us as we endeavor to follow his lead.

Given this opportunity for shameless self-promotion, Gene would like to share with you some sage words of advice:

  1.  Be careful who you stand behind when scheduling your college courses, you may end up pursuing that line of study.
  2. If your business is based out of your home, a mudroom helps facilitate communication with itinerant therapists. You can leave them notes, schedules, reports, etc. And they can leave you cookies.
  3. Professional relationships, (all relationships, really) work best if they are based on mutual trust and respect.
  4. When asking for favors, it helps if you are charming and look like someone famous.

Contact Gene at: genepizz@gmail.com…

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I hope you had a good day

I hope you had a good day

By Lisa Yauch-Cadden

“I hope you had a good day”

My family and I are ABC News fans. I always loved Peter Jennings. I, like many people was saddened at his passing, and I thought my news program would never be the same. I liked Peter’s sense of gravity and calm. He was always well so spoken and articulate, even in times of crisis, even when he was speaking extemporaneously – now that was a man you could trust. I now like Diane Sawyer very much, better in fact than I thought I would. But in between Peter and Diane, there was Charlie Gibson, and I loved Charlie. I thought he was great on Good Morning America, was happy when they brought him back and was really happy when he picked up the evening news. He had a fatherly, folksy way of delivering the news, was also well spoken and he had a great sign off – “I’m Charles Gibson and I hope you had a good day”. I loved that! What a great way to end a newscast. After all the bad news he’d delivered, he encouraged us take a moment to reflect on our day, and for me, that was refreshing, because I rarely had an opportunity to think about that when I was working 8, 10, 12 hours a day and always wondering what I had to do next.

I find that even now, when I am working just 30-35 hours a week, primarily in one location, with very little travel, that I can still get caught up in my day; rushing from patient to patient, worrying about productivity, always thinking: What do I have to do next? What else can I get done? What have I left undone? What’s on the schedule for tomorrow? Only recently, have I been able to slow my thought processes to reflect on my day. Was it a good day? Did I make a difference? Did I help someone? Did I contribute? Lately, I have been able to answer “Yes” to these questions, and to answer Charlie, I am having more “good days”.

So what’s changed? My caseload is about the same as it was a year ago. It goes up and down with the hospital census (and the flu season). The out-patient schedule is fairly constant. The productivity demands are the same. There has been no significant change in personnel as it relates to my position. So the difference must be me. I have changed how I look at my job. I am still cognizant of the productivity demands. I am still accountable to lots of people, but my top priority is to be of service to my patients – to do the best job I can and to provide them with as much information as possible to make decisions about their care, as it relates to my portion of the treatment plan (usually swallowing). I spend time educating patients and families, reviewing MBSs in detail, providing treatment beyond just the diagnostic kind, establishing home programs and making sure they understand what their options are. I am not successful 100% of the time, but more often than not, I feel like I am making a difference. When I reflect on my day, I can say, “Yes, it was a good day”.

I think if we can all find those small moments, those 1 or 2 patients, that if not for you, they might not be doing as well, that through your knowledge or kindness, you improved the quality of their life or their opportunity for a better outcome. If we can reflect on those things at the end of the day, we can all have a good day and look forward to a better tomorrow.

About the author

Lisa Yauch-Cadden was born and raised in the Detroit, Michigan area. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a Master’s in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Michigan. She has worked as an SLP in nearly all facets of the field: skilled nursing facilities, home care, acute care, transitional care, medical offices and schools. Throughout her career as a therapist, manager and business owner, Lisa has never strayed from providing direct line service, including state of the art evaluations using FEES/FEESST and MBS. While she needs no accolades to do her job, she is deserving of many. Her tireless efforts to advance the best clinical practices in Speech Language Pathology have changed lives for her patients, her clinical fellows, and those of us lucky enough to work with her on a regular basis. Contact Lisa at lycslp@gmail.com.

If you have something to say, please submit your article for consideration to lycslp@gmail.com. .…

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I have all the answers but nobody is asking me any questions

I have all the answers but nobody is asking me any questions

By Marguerite Mullaney

“I have all these answers but nobody is asking me any questions!”

The words echoed down the muggy hallway of an Alzheimer’s unit one hot August afternoon as I was hurrying along to see my next patient. They stopped me in mid step. Many times, a patient has managed to say the one thing I needed to hear at a particular turning point in my career. However, on this occasion, the message was shouted by somebody not on my list with no assigned minutes. His sentiment was so poignant and so common it could be a defining human characteristic; the need to share our expertise. It is a want that resonated deep within me and I took a few minutes, unbillable minutes finding the man and asking him a question.

We spend years becoming speech language pathologists. Studies are not enough to get the seal of approval. There are tests to pass, followed by a lengthy fellowship under the watchful eye of another person already judged to be an expert. Even certification and licensure is a process and requires constant education to renew yearly.

Yet, having completed the all basics and continuing to achieve certification and licensure yearly, I find nobody is asking me the question I so desperately want to answer. If I had a chance to answer one question for the next generation of SLP’s, I already know what I want to tell them. It would be the same message given to me by one of my graduate supervisors.

I was her first student. She was my first supervisor with an adult neurogenic population. We spent the autumn of 1987 driving each other crazy and getting in each other’s way. She wasn’t easy to learn from and I wasn’t particularly bright, but we bumbled along with a minimum of chaos. Then dysphagia struck!
Swallowing was a bit new to SLP in those days. Not every clinician was practicing it. I was lucky. My supervisor was confident enough to admit her limitations. She showed me how to research the information I needed to fill the gaps in my university education. There was no dysphagia course offered in my graduate program way back in the dark ages of the eighties. Filling in my theory short comings was as easy as reading; Logemann and Rosenbeck became my bedtime stories for the remainder of grad school.

But, practical application of that knowledge takes…PRACTICE. You need to do an awful lot of awful bedside evaluations before you get really good. You need to see an ocean on aspiration on MBS before you can anticipate the drowning. How does a supervisor get a new clinician from inexperience to expertise without killing anybody? The answer is not, ‘puree and pudding thick liquids for everybody.’
Have the clinician answer this question just as my supervisor made me answer for each of our dysphagia patients 23 years ago: “What swallowing felony has this patient committed to be condemned to puree and/or thickened liquids?”

Too many times lately, I’ve read reports which did not reflect deficits significant enough to justify diet modification. Then there’s an increasingly popular trend in acute care summaries which apply the safest diet for swallowing purposes without consideration of the ramifications to the whole patient. Expensive MBSs performed in which no aspiration was detected or the trials were less than five swallows or limited trials of nectar, honey, and puree or not one compensatory strategy attempted have been in over-abundance in recent years. Bedside evaluations are sent with statements identifying aspiration to the point you must read them twice to be certain imaging was not conducted. In my pursuit of additional information for some of the more outrageous claims, I have heard such depressing excuses as:

1) I stopped the MBS because I was afraid the patient would aspirate.
2) The patient was coughing so I changed him to pudding at bedside.
3) I didn’t try thin during the MBS because at the nursing home he was already on nectar so I started there.
4) There’s no speech at nursing homes so I put her on the safest diet; puree and pudding thick.
5) A suspected timing delay of the epiglottis might be present and could lead to aspiration even though none was apparent on the MBS but to be safe I recommend nectar thick liquids.
6) I didn’t want to recommend something they might aspirate and get sued.
I wish there was no number 6. Sadly, I think it is the driving force behind many of the recommendations. But, I would spread some words of caution to my peers, especially the younger ones. The only thing that avoids litigation is luck. The thing that wins litigation is expertise and documentation.
If you make a swallowing recommendation in isolation of the needs of whole patient to save him from aspiration pneumonia and he goes into renal failure…that’s a big problem.

If you base your recommendations on what you suspect their living arrangements are and you are wrong…that’s a big problem.

If you are practicing limited trial MBS’s and ending them early because you are afraid the patient will aspirate…PLEASE stop conducting MBS and get more education!

Before you alter another diet ask yourself, “What swallowing felony has this patient committed to be condemned to puree and/or thickened liquids?”

About the author

Marguerite Mullaney was born and raised in and around the Boston area. She continues to make her home in the Commonweath and rarely finds it necessary to travel beyond the 128 belt. Her undergraduate program was completed at Bridgewater State College and she attended Northeastern University for graduate school. Adult neurological disorders has been the primary focus of her clinical practice. Her vast knowledge of the field, thoughtful, pragmatic approach and incredible sense of humor have enlightened and inspired her patients, staff and colleagues for over 20 years.

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Why we need to show up

Why we need to show up

By Lisa Yauch-Cadden

“Why we need to show up”

As we mentioned in our welcome to this website, Speech Language Pathology can be a profession of great joy, and great loneliness. Often, as sole practioners in schools, hospitals, rehab centers, medical/private offices, and home care settings, we may be the only source of speech and language services available to a child or adult in our community. I have personally worked in hospitals, with no out-patient treatment services, skilled nursing facilities with no/poor access to home care services, schools where families cannot afford additional services through out-patient clinics, and in out-patient settings, where support from the school system has been limited. I have also known clinicians who, all by themselves are the hospital based SLP, the homecare SLP, the school therapist and the out-patient provider. In these situations, we have a huge responsibility to our patients. We may be the only one to diagnose and treat a patient’s problem, or provide a family or physician with needed information. Yet, over the past several years, I have noticed more and more therapists, not taking these responsibilities so seriously.

I have known therapists to cancel appointments for convenience or to avoid a patient with behaviors, therapists that utilize the same treatment approach with multiple patients regardless of individual needs, and utilize the same treatment materials with the same patient, over and over, and then blame the patient when he/she doesn’t make progress. I have worked in facilities where staffing required multiple SLPs to service the same patient on different days, and because no single SLP felt responsibility for the patient, (they were “just covering”, after all), the patient failed to make progress. I have met with indignant therapists, astonished that a payor source would require accountability, prior to paying for services, and I have seen talented therapists leave the field, because they did not want to play by a new set of rules.

In all of these instances, I am reminded that, while as therapists, we think that Speech Language Pathology is about us – our skills, our expertise, our credentials. It is not. It is about the patient. Every client that crosses our path is referred to us, because someone who cares about that person has a question or a concern that needs to be addressed. Someone in that patient’s family, desperately wants them to get better, and often we are the only ones to whom they can turn. We cannot phone it in. We have to show up.

When Mrs. Jones sends her 3 year old autistic son to the school or the out-patient clinic, she is putting her baby in our hands, and hoping for progress. When the homecare clinician sends her patient for an MBS/FEES, she is looking for specific information on the nature of that patient’s dysphagia, as well as recommendations for intervention. When Mr. Smith, an 88 year old man enters the skilled nursing facility for rehab, he is relying on us to understand his Medicare benefit, and entrusting us get him the services he deserves. When we think it is beneath us to be told to provide 35 minutes of care or make sure that we see a patient on Thursday vs. Friday, or write a note that conveys an appropriate level of service, we only hurt the patient, and put them at risk for losing the services, to which they are entitled. And when we cover multiple facilities/multiple patients with multiple clinicians, we need to be responsible for our session, and advance the treatment plan. It is our responsibility to understand our patients’ problems and their payor source and provide skilled intervention to meet their goals.

Now, I know it is hard to bring your ‘A’ game every day, and there are lots of forces that conspire against us (family, kids, traffic, heavy caseloads, limited access to materials, uncaring bosses, budget cuts, etc.). Sometimes patients are needy and families are unrealistic, and our caseloads are unending, and on some days, we have to leave by 3:00 p.m., no questions asked, but we owe it to our patients to try our best, everyday, and honor the implied trust between us. If the situation were reversed, we would expect nothing less.

About the author

Lisa Yauch-Cadden was born and raised in the Detroit, Michigan area. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a Master’s in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Michigan. She has worked as an SLP in nearly all facets of the field: skilled nursing facilities, home care, acute care, transitional care, medical offices and schools. Throughout her career as a therapist, manager and business owner, Lisa has never strayed from providing direct line service, including state of the art evaluations using FEES/FEESST and MBS. While she needs no accolades to do her job, she is deserving of many. Her tireless efforts to advance the best clinical practices in Speech Language Pathology have changed lives for her patients, her clinical fellows, and those of us lucky enough to work with her on a regular basis. Contact Lisa at lycslp@gmail.com.

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