“Many students from other departments at ISU go to BroMenn to gain experience in their discipline,” speech pathologist and clinical educator Rene McClure said.
As future clinicians, she continued, it is important for students to get as much time with patients as possible.
CSD clinicians analyze the vocal, muscular and linguistic aspects of speech and how to improve them. Professionally, they have to be able to analyze speech patterns and develop plans of treatment for those with speech disorders.
The program began when a former student at Advocate BroMenn reached out to Illinois State to initiate the collaboration.
While there is a speech clinic on campus, it is a completely different environment from hospital settings, McClure said.
In the hospital setting, students have to learn to be flexible with plans and schedules, work with other disciplines such as nursing and manage an ever-changing caseload.
“Because patients don’t stay in the hospital for long, the caseload changes frequently,” she said. “Each week they don’t know who the participants will be until we get there.”
Speech therapy typically consists of individual meetings and group sessions. During the program, students lead weekly group therapy meetings.
Most of the group therapy focuses on discussion and interaction between members, the sessions begin with discussing recent events.
This allows them to practice reading and recalling abilities, McClure said. There is also a secondary activity focusing on improving cognitive abilities.
Many participants in therapy have suffered traumatic brain injury or stroke, and communicating in groups can help work on skills learned in individual therapy sessions.
“Some may need encouragement with their speech pronunciation, others may have difficulty finding the words they want to say or have difficulty paying attention,” she said.
The program not only teaches students how to work in therapy settings, but also in working with family members and developing a bedside manner.
While the program is challenging, there are benefits and rewards to it, McClure added.
Students are able to see the benefit of their work and the effect it has on their patients.
“One of the most rewarding times is when we are debriefing as we leave the hospital and the students feel proud of their accomplishments,” McClure said. “I love when they can reflect on what they did that day and see the positives and also the ways that they can improve the following week.“