Celebrating Allied Health Professions Day

Happy Allied Health Professions Day!

Usually when you think of healthcare professionals, doctors and nurses come to mind. In reality, there are a range of other specialists that support the NHS and help to keep the nation happy and healthy. In honour of Allied Health Professions Day we spoke to Julia Targett, a speech and language therapist in Ayrshire, about her role.

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Can you tell me what your role is and what it entails?

“I’m a speech and language therapist, I work with patients who have communication and swallowing difficulties. I work mostly with stroke patients, dementia patients, people who have throat injuries, or older people.

My job is to help them regain their language capabilities, work out strategies for them to help ease frustrations, use exercises and over articulation to make language clearer. It’s really a very varied job and can be quite intense!”

Can you tell me how a typical patient interaction might go?

“Since COVID there haven’t been a lot of outpatient clinics, usually I go and visit patients in their homes, or in care homes. I always start with an assessment of the patient, which I can use to make a tailored therapy plan that’s suitable to them.

All of my patient interaction so far has been in person, but I know some colleagues use Near Me, which is a virtual consultation system. This is great for some patients; it can be a lot more convenient. We also have some transgender patients who feel more comfortable using Near Me. Our aim with speech and language therapy is to help build confidence, and allow people to be more independent, so having treatment options and different plans is really useful.”

Talk me through the challenges you have within your role, and in communicating with patients.

“One of the big challenges we’re having at the moment is with waiting lists, the NHS has been struggling since COVID. In our role we’re seeing a lot of long covid cases coming through, and a lot of patients are still waiting for treatment.  

I think one of the challenges we have with communication is trying to keep patients motivated outside of the clinic – we only get to see them for an hour a week, the rest of the time they need to repeat the exercises we give them. Not all the patients understand that or are willing to do it.

The same applies to the families of patients too, they want to know how they can be supportive but don’t always get it quite right.”

We believe that personalised information could go a long way for patient recovery and experience, what are your views on this?  

“100% agree. There’s nothing worse than feeling like a healthcare professional isn’t acknowledging or understanding what you need as a patient. A patient will have their own goals and aims, and this should be factored into treatment as it will help to motivate the patient to improve.

A big part of the job is that it’s person-centred – all treatment needs to be tailored, even down to the patients’ hobbies and interests. It’s a big part of designing the therapy plan.”

What’s the best thing about being a speech and language therapist?

“It’s a great job, I love that I get to meet so many different people and hear their stories. Every patient is different, and I enjoy the challenge of navigating different ways to help people.

Success at the end of a block of therapy is brilliant, it’s great to see improvement and especially improvement in patients’ wellbeing. It’s so rewarding.”

Allied Health Professions Day is a chance to raise awareness of the wonderful and necessary work that people like Julia do across the country, and to celebrate the quality of care that they provide.

To all the Art Therapists, Drama Therapists, Music Therapists, Chiropodists, Dieticians, Occupational Therapists, Operating Department Practitioners, Orthoptists, Osteopaths, Paramedics, Physiotherapists, Prosthetists, Orthotists, Radiographers and Speech and Language Therapists – thank you!