On the Road to Clinical Competency in Swallowing Disorders

Classes have started and clinical practicums are about to begin. Are you prepared to work with the kid that only wants to eat chicken nuggets? How about the older adult who’s having trouble eating solid foods?

As you begin to explore your CSD career, you’ll learn there are many areas of audiology and speech-language pathology that we often need additional training and support prior to seeing a client independently—this includes working in the area of swallowing disorders. If you have a chance to complete a clinical placement in a health care facility, do it! It can be a little intimidating, but there’s nothing better than being able to help someone eat or drink after a long illness. I mean, who doesn’t love their favorite pizza or coffee?!

Not Sure What You’re Doing?

Before you pick up the tongue depressor and make them say “ahh,” ask yourself, “Do I know what I’m doing?!” It’s okay if you don’t quite yet. That’s what your professors and clinical supervisors are for.

The ASHA Leader recently highlighted work from ASHA’s Special Interest Group (SIG) 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia) and the American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (ABSSD) which revealed, “medical SLPs do not feel consistently competent about when to provide dysphagia services. The survey also revealed differences in the amount and type of respondents’ graduate coursework, clinical placement experiences, assessment and treatment methods, and competence measurements for dysphagia management.”

DCVT—A Road Map to Dysphagia Competency

To solve this problem, ASHA’s SIG 13 and ABSSD created a Dysphagia Competency Verification Tool (DCVT) to help students, clinical fellows, and new hires ensure they have the knowledge and skills to provide dysphagia services safely. Here’s how you—as a student—can use the tool:

  • Review the DCVT as you complete your coursework in swallowing, keeping in mind how class readings and assignments support different areas of dysphagia management.
  • Bring the DCVT to your clinical placements. Discuss areas to target and realistic goals you can achieve during that placement experience with your supervisor.
  • Reference the DCVT and other ASHA Practice Portal tools to demonstrate your skills and knowledge to your graduate program during grand rounds, in case study discussions, and in formal documentation of meeting graduation requirements.
  • Describe how you used the DCVT to develop your clinical competency in dysphagia on your résumé and during job interviews.
  • Develop a five-year personal development plan to launch a successful career working with patients who have dysphagia. Present this plan to your clinical fellowship supervisor and administrator in your first clinical position.

It may be a long journey to feeling prepared to work independently, but National NSSLHA has your back! Learn more by

  • reviewing the pediatric and adult dysphagia resources on ASHA’s Practice Portal and evidence maps,
  • utilizing the DCVT tool to help you gain competency, and
  • taking a peek at the SIG 13 Community for additional insight, and perspectives on some of the latest dysphagia assessment and treatment approaches. 

We know learning about dysphagia can seem daunting at first, but embrace every opportunity to observe, learn, and ask questions. Before you know it, you’ll be on the road to achieving clinical competence!

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