Maintaining SLPs as the Preferred Providers of Dysphagia Services: A Call to Action
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in the general medical hospital setting spend approximately half of their time providing swallowing services. Other professions, including occupational therapists (OTs) and dietitians, promote themselves as disciplines well suited to assist patients with dysphagia. Responses to a survey distributed by the American Speech-Language-Hearing-Association (ASHA) in 2007 indicated that 83% of SLPs working in hospitals believed encroachment and defining professional boundaries was a problem. The highest level of personal experience with encroachment was with occupational therapy. Effective 2009, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) began offering Specialty Certification in Feeding, Eating and Swallowing (SCFES) to OTs and OTAs who meet specific educational and clinical experience requirements. This article reviews the many reasons why SLPs are the professionals best suited for assisting patients with swallowing disorders. It provides specific strategies to assist SLPs in promoting our discipline as the providers of dysphagia services.