Communication Sciences and Disorders
What would you say is your number one career advantage you received by completing your education at CHS?
The major career advantage I received though the CHS program was having the opportunity to be involved in LINKs. CHS has always been supportive of new and innovative ideas and they encourage student participation in the most current research. This support certainly benefited Dr. Lowman when creating the LINKs program, and my subsequent involvement provided me with unique training in this new, but growing, service-delivery model. The training I received through LINKS put me in the position to develop the program at my company as the only employee with previous experience with teletherapy.
What advice would you give to current CHS CSD students that would help them position themselves in competitive career roles?
My advice is to greet challenges eagerly and openly. It is easy to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing when you start a new job or when you are trusted with a big responsibility; but you will never find out how far you can push yourself or advance your field if you don’t say yes to new opportunities.
What are some inter-professional experiences you had at CHS that helped give you that competitive edge?
At CHS we were always encouraged to collaborate with other health professions. I feel lucky to have been in a program that supports interprofessional collaboration as a course requirement. Our CSD program is also unique in that we get to dedicate an entire year solely to field work, which allows for full-time collaboration in a variety of settings.
What types of collaborations do you look for in your current position?
Associates in Pediatric Therapy contracts with a variety of locations in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. At the location where I work the most, a medical day care facility called The Kidz Club, children receive day-time care from nurses to address their medical needs and they also receive ST, PT, or OT to address their developmental needs. When I am at the Kidz Club, I am constantly collaborating with nurses, physical therapists, other speech therapists, and occupational therapists. In order to treat the child as a whole, I have to know about their medical, motor, and sensory needs. We work as a team to best benefit our kids, and I rely on the knowledge of others every day.
Tell me about your involvement with telehealth and the LINKS grant from the Department of Education. How did your education in the CSD program prepare you for this work?
The courses in the LINKs program taught us about the basics of technology, how to create effective teletherapy sessions, research related to the appropriateness of teletherapy, and also included education about rural communities. Through this program we were given the opportunity to provide several sessions over teletherapy to children at our UK clinic and at our fieldwork locations, which were required to be in rural areas. The focus on this specific population was important considering rural communities are prevalent in Kentucky and they are notoriously underserved in healthcare.
A new law was recently passed in relation to telehealth services reimbursement from third party entities such as Medicaid. How much of an impact do you foresee this law making on telehealth services?
I foresee this law making a huge impact on telehealth services. Currently, insurance does not reimburse for these services in Kentucky. This issue is made worse by the reality that families who are located in distant, rural, or low SES areas are disproportionately affected by lack of access to therapy services. Unfortunately, without reimbursement from third party entities, companies such as APT have to ask for private payment per session. Medicaid reimbursement for teletherapy services will make it possible to provide access to therapy for those families that really need it.
Was there a specific experience you had that lead you to this field? If so, what was it?
My mom was a speech language pathologist when I was growing up, but I didn’t know it was what I wanted to do until I was a year into my undergraduate degree. I was originally pursuing a career in social work, and took a couple of CSD courses to fill credit hours. Those courses showed me how broad and hands-on the field was, and I felt inspired to make the transition. I am grateful for my experience in the field of social work as it provided the foundation for the populations I wanted to target with my therapy career.
Is there a certain experience you have had while developing your telehealth program with Associates in Pediatric Therapy, LLC that has further supported the need for telehealth practices in the school system?
While in the beginning stages of our program at APT, we held a study to determine the need and appropriateness of teletherapy at our company. We selected 10 therapists from the three disciplines of speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Our physical therapist selected a child who is homebound due to a condition he was born with. This condition reduces a person’s immune system so that something like the flu could be incredibly damaging or even fatal. This physical therapist had been seeing this child in his home, but was placed on hold during flu season for the child’s safety. She was then placed on hold for RSV season immediately following flu season. This meant she was unable to see the child for several consecutive months, which was detrimental to his physical and overall development. With teletherapy, she was able to be in the family's home with them all while maintaining his health and safety. She was able to talk the family through exercises, supports, and even helped them set up a piece of equipment for him to use at home. Teletherapy enabled this child to have services, when, otherwise, he would have been absent from therapy for months; this would have had a considerable negative impact on his progress. Although this child was not of school age, his restrictions will not necessarily change in the future, and his case is certainly not unique. The need for teletherapy is present across Kentucky and the rest of the country, it can benefit people of all ages, in schools and in their homes.
A major contribution of technology has been its ability to bring people together regardless of physical distance. As therapists, we are driven to reach as many patients as possible if they are in need of our services. Teletherapy is making that a reality for so many of the families that may have felt that they had run out of options.