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  • Teamwork the key to quality speech pathology training

    Author: Sharon Smith

The speech pathology program at the University of Queensland (UQ) has ranked number one in Australia for student satisfaction according to the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) survey. The course was ranked by students at number one overall for satisfaction according to quality of teaching and overall educational experience; and at number two for skill development and for the learning resources.

Undergraduate students are able to undertake clinical placements from first semester including simulated learning opportunities in paediatrics, acute care, swallowing, and voice disorders, overseas placements, and interprofessional courses.

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Clinical Education Liaison Manager for UQ’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Daniella Cain credits the team of educators who work hard to ensure students feel fully supported in their studies and during their placements.

‘We help the students feel confident about their placements by helping them plan, and ensuring they know who to contact at any time. We support them throughout placement with on-site visits. We have a great team here of professionals who know what it’s like to work in the field because they are teaching and working.’

The School has a clinic that students can work in and observe their educators as well as apply the research they have been undertaking – honours is a required year in UQ’s Bachelor of Speech Pathology program, and translational research is emphasised in the postgraduate program in areas such as telehealth.

‘We place a lot of importance on research for allied health; we are either using the research or doing it ourselves. Our clinical staff are supported by our leaders in academic research here at the university,’ Daniella says.

PhD candidate Melina West has been researching how emotional information influences the way the brain processes language and how it affects people with autism-like traits.

‘We found all participants showed poorer word recall and recognition when words were vocalised in a fearful way compared to words presented in a neutral way,’ she says.

‘Those with lower levels of autism-like traits had more difficulty learning words presented in a happy tone compared to in a neutral tone, however those with higher autism-like traits were not affected by the happy sounding words.’

‘This suggests those with higher autism-like traits are not as influenced by emotion when learning language.’

While some graduates end up in the expected settings of schools, hospitals and private practice, many find their ways to careers they had not first envisioned including research, lecturing and government policy. Danielle says speech pathology graduates are not just about teaching people to speak or swallow, but to communicate as a whole, such as the non-UQ graduate who had been a speech pathologist and had then gone on to use her skills in linguistics and phonetics to work as a speech analyst for an international law enforcement agency.

UQ speech pathology graduate Lynell Bassett is now Director of Speech Pathology and Audiology at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

‘My UQ studies taught me to always be solution-focused, to use current best practice, and to undertake lifelong learning. I have continued to apply these principles throughout my career,’ Ms Bassett says.

‘My course also allowed me to study audiology subjects, and these early studies enabled me to undertake a leadership role in audiology.'

Another notable UQ speech pathology graduate is Dr Heather Parker who graduated in 1965. She worked as a speech therapist, audiologist and counsellor before training in medicine and gaining her flying qualifications in Canada to work in emergency medicine. Dr Parker has worked in Australia with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and obtained her qualifications in medical journalism, again at UQ. She went on to receive an OAM for her services to aviation and medicine.


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Sharon Smith

Sharon Smith writes freelance articles as a medical, science and technology specialist. She is researching health journalism at Griffith University and lives mostly on Twitter @smsmithwriter (and would love to hear from you).