The nurse has evolved from merely providing nursing care to performance of various functions since the nursing was professionalized by Florence Nightingale decades ago. Today, nurses fulfill various functions in the academe, corporate setting, research, and several others. The profession has also evolved from a female profession that continually gains to attract males. Proceeding to Speech Pathology would be facilitated by the nurse’s educational background and training. A master’s degree in Speech Pathology can be attained through contact learning.
Roles of a Nurse and Speech Pathology
Speech pathology refers to the “study, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders” involving “speech, language, swallowing, fluency, voice, and communication” (Solis, 2010, para. 1), “articulation, impaired language, stuttering, slurring or lisps” (Speech Pathologist, 2010), and provision of assistance to prevent disorders related to “speech, language, cognitive-communication, voice, swallowing, and fluency” (United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nature, 2009, para. 2). “(I)nappropriate pitch or harsh voice” and communication skills can be improved by “modifying an accent” (US BLS, Nature, 2009, para. 2). Speech disorder or disability caused by development delay, medical conditions (stroke, brain injury, cerebral palsy, defective hearing) and other causes are also treated (Solis, 2010). Standard tests and assessment tools are used in the diagnosis of persons while specific individualized remedies for each patient are applied (Solis, 2010).
The nurse as an advocate of the patient entails supporting, campaigning and defending the patient on the caring, healing, and dying beliefs and practices of the patient and his/her family. In like manner, the speech pathologist is also an advocate of the patients by promoting their rehabilitation and supporting status in society (especially that people with speech disability receive discrimination from society). Advocating for the patient involves working with family members and other medical professionals for the treatment of the patient (US BLS, 2009).
Traditionally, the nurse’s role is a care provider. Nurses have to assist the physicians and specialists in the care of patients to enable them to recover from medical conditions and surgical procedures. Recent developments require that nurses should not be mere assistants in caring and merely administering the instructions of the physicians but active participants in the process of health and healing by interacting and collaborating with multi-disciplinary health team. A speech pathologist provides specific care to the patient that involving the organs and functions related to communication. Care provided by the speech pathologist extends even to the home of the patient (Solis, 2010).
As an educator, the nurse can be seen in colleges and universities teaching nursing and graduate students, inculcating to them healing, health and caring principles. However, nurses in community clinics and hospitals also educate people by teaching patients, promoting health, and communicating experiences with patients and families that would enhance health and healing. A speech pathologist also teaches in universities and educates patients of proper activities to be undertaken to improve speech disabilities.
A number of nurses embark on research for new tools and practices for patients and nurses. Scholarly literatures on diabetes, pregnancy, staffing pattern and other subjects resulted from such researches. In the field of speech pathology, researchers have developed new tools and equipment for the diagnosis and treatment of speech disorders, as well as studies on how people communicate (US BLS, Nature, 2009).
The nurse as manager and leader in the administrative level of a hospital managing and leading a team of nurses requires knowledge on effective communication, interpersonal relationship, psychological principles, as well as specific business principles relevant to corporate management (profit and loss in relation to staffing, expenses, etc.). The nurse-leader/manager has to collaborate with other departments and heads to properly manage the institution. A health institution may have a department for communication disorder treatment or may simply hire individual speech pathologist. However, in a unit or department for speech pathologists, the head should possess the skills and knowledge cited above to become an efficient and effective manager and leader. Many speech pathologists work individually as consultants, in day care centers, in outpatient care centers or self-employed (US BLS, 2009).
Speech Pathology Learning Contract
Learning contract is a written agreement or commitment between a student and teacher “regarding a particular amount of student work or learning on the one hand and the amount of institutional reward or credit for this work on the other” (Berte, 1975, as cited in Codde, The Concept, 2006, para. 2). It is an approach that seeks to promote learning of a student based on one’s needs, promote the independence of the student in learning, and develop the learning behavior of the student (Rye, 2008). Contract learning also utilizes collaborative learning wherein “educational activities” are matched “with the needs of individual learners” (Rye, 2008. p. 1475). The contract also includes what the student will learn, the duration for completion of the course, the student’s activities to meet the objectives, how the student will assess one’s learning and the manner the teacher will assess the student (Learning Contracts, 2003; Canham & Bennett, 2001). It is a teaching strategy and assessment tool with shared responsibility between the teacher and student (Learning Contracts, 2003). The student has to reflect and personally and critically assess one’s learning and progress as an active participant of the process (Canham & Bennett, 2001). The learning contract for speech pathology requires knowing the types of communication disabilities, the equipment and tools used in diagnosis and treatment (e.g. pictures, sign language, sound analyzers, books, toys, multimedia computer programs and automated devices, pronunciation, sounds) (Speech Pathologist, 2010). Transitioning to speech pathology would be facilitated by a nursing background since anatomy and physiology (US BLS, 2009; Solis, 2010) are also taken up in nursing school. However, a more focused learning should be made in the area of speech and hearing, acoustics and physiological facet of communication (US BLS, 2009). Practice in this field requires a master’s degree in Speech Pathology (US BLS, 2009; Solis, 2010) that lasts for two years. An accredited online master’s degree by the American Speech Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) can be completed from six to eight semesters (How long, 2010). A supervised professional clinical work on the required number of hours shall also be undertaken (Solis, 2010). Since still working a nurse, I would take the contract learning for Speech Pathology for eight semesters that includes the internship and clinical work. Hospitals, clinics and institutions that offer clinical work and practicum will be sought. Some affordable books and references will be purchased while the rest can be accessed online, in public libraries and the university or online school enrolled in (Peterson, 2010). Assessment by the supervisor on the progress, learning and teaching process will be made at the end of each month (Canham & Bennett, 2001).
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