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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