Speech Language Pathologist (SLP)
A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is responsible for the assessment and treatment of language, voice, cognitive, swallowing, and mastication (chewing) deficits. These problems often arise after traumatic injury, stroke, or as a part of degenerative conditions. Therapy for cognitive and language deficits allows patients to maximize their recovery of these abilities. Swallowing and mastication difficulties in the hospital or nursing home often leads to food and drink falling into the lungs which sets up a patient to develop aspiration pneumonia, a serious medical situation. Quick assessment and therapy for swallowing and mastication difficulties allows medical facilities to minimize risk of aspiration pneumonia in their patients and increase the likelihood of their overall recovery and survival. Also, as changes in cognition, language, and speech are often early signs of many acute and long-term illnesses, the SLP plays an important role in early identification of degenerative conditions and illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and autism. In acute care, SLPs also use their expertise to localize lesions within the CNS and PNS that are not visible on imaging studies. To become an SLP students must complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree in speech-language pathology. To become licensed and nationally certified students complete their first year working professionally alongside a mentor SLP. Speech-language pathologists work in private practices, schools, acute care hospitals, long-term care facilities, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, and hospice care.