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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Speech-language pathologists help patients find their voice

June 21, 2022

At Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals, Jett Stenson is used to explaining her role as a speech-language pathologist to her patients.

“I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard patients say ‘I talk just fine!’ after introducing myself as a speech therapist,” Stenson said.

Stenson added that while speech-language pathologists do help individuals with speech motor impairments, there’s more to the job than meets the eye—or the ear.

“We are so much more than teaching individuals their speech sounds,” Stenson said. “We get to help patients relearn how to communicate with loved ones, safely eat meals, and return to those tasks that bring them joy.”

Speech-language pathologists treat disorders that affect the entire communication system, and Madonna’s team of specialized speech-language pathologists is no exception.

“We treat patients who present with deficits in swallowing, cognitive communication, language, and voice, as well as patients who remain on the ventilator,” Stenson said.

Stenson primarily treats patients in Madonna’s Stroke Program. Following a stroke, some individuals may have trouble talking, getting their words out and solving problems. Stenson works with these patients to help them improve their cognitive communication, language, vocal quality, motor speech, and ability to swallow.

“If we suspect a swallowing impairment, we oftentimes complete a fiber-optic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) to determine what is preventing the patient from safely swallowing,” Stenson said. “Based on the results of the FEES, we may recommend a modified diet and/or dysphagia exercises to strengthen those muscles involved in swallowing.”

Madonna’s speech-language pathologists carefully craft an individualized plan of care for each patient based on their unique set of strengths and deficits. This plan starts on the first meeting between patient and therapist, even if a patient has a tracheostomy or is ventilator-dependent.

“We collaborate with respiratory therapists for the placement of a speaking valve to allow these patients to verbally communicate,” Stenson said. “Further, we oftentimes complete respiratory strengthening and coordination exercises with these patients.” 

With all the various hats she wears, Stenson believes her role as a speech-language pathologist is a rewarding one.

“One of the things I respect most about Madonna is their desire to provide all patients—even those who some might deem as too medically complex—with quality, intense therapy to give them the best shot at recovery.”

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