★ Project: Making Referrals

To say I was a deer in the headlights at the start of my Clinical Fellowship would be an understatement. I had spent the last eight years with my nose to the grind, studying the ins and outs of the field of Speech-Language Pathology. The question, upon graduation, was thus: “Now what?” Somewhere in the recesses of my cerebral cortex, information was stored, and ready to be used, but how to go about that? What’s more, what if I needed to refer a patient to a specialist? As it happens, I was fortunate enough to have a patient basically look me in the eyes and tell me I needed to make a referral on her behalf. I was about to do a bedside swallow eval, and was in the midst of introducing myself.

Phil: Hi! I’m Phil, and I’m a speech therapist.

Patient: You’re a what?

Phil: A speech therapist.

Patient: Say again?

Phil: Speech. Therapist.

Patient: You’re a PEACH therapist?

Then, like a rolodex, my brain flipped to a page from my audiology coursework. I remembered that high-frequency sounds like /s/ and /z/ are among the first to diminish from age-related hearing loss.

I was able to perform the remainder of my evaluation, and note instances that confirmed this suspicion. I incorporated this information into my report and made sure to notify the doctor as well, so that he could write a referral to an audiologist.

Over time, I learned that sometimes we SLPs notice things that, to us, seem quite obvious. To others, however, these things are not apparent. It doesn’t take much, perhaps nothing more than a simple greeting, for us to begin to get a sense of what our patients may need.

I still chuckle when I think about this exchange. More than her words, it was the look of sheer incredulity on her face that I remember most vividly.

For that brief moment in time, I was a peach therapist. Until she got fitted for some hearing aids, that is.