Interprofessional Education

Academicians are talking about interprofessional education these days, and the benefits it brings. SLPs who work alongside other disciplines don’t need to be convinced of this; it has always been the way we prefer to work. Here on our Healing the Children missions, the rich interaction between professionals is one of the great benefits of our trip. We rarely have time for formal cross training, but the informal cross training is happening all the time, all over the hospital campus.

Yesterday, the Speech Team was waiting for the PACU (post-anesthesia care unit) to send the last child to the wards for the night, and we had a great spontaneous presentation from Jon Skirka, MD, about his research. He and his colleagues have developed a quality of life instrument for children with velopharyngeal incompetence, and have published some great data. In short, they showed that early intervention for kids who are hypernasal (for whatever reason) improves quality of life when compared to waiting. There’s much more about the development of the instrument and statistical measures used, which was extremely interesting for me, but I’ll skip that part for you, dear reader. Jon has agreed to visit my elective class on cleft palate this summer, via Skype, to talk about the clinical implications of his work. He will be a great addition to my newest course!

I also was introduced to Dr. Daniel (I forgot his last name), a general pediatric surgeon here in LIma. We had a great talk about many clinical issues, and then he mentioned the lingual frenulum. That’s the “string” running down the middle of the underside of your tongue. Here in Peru, and in many places including the United States, people think that clipping the frenulum will bring on speech and language development. This is NOT true. It is a very rare child who really needs to have the frenulum clipped. In fact, the frenulum acts as an anchor for the tongue, and clipping it often makes sound production more difficult. I braced myself…I was ready to gently educate my newest colleague about the rare instances where we should clip, and the general rule to not clip. Dr Daniel told me the parents of his patients often ask to have the child’s frenulum clipped…but he refuses! He only does it when the motion of the tongue tip is extremely restricted, and when the tip on the tongue is quite indented, so that it looks like a heart. I was so thrilled to hear this, and to be in 100% agreement with Daniel. He and I are cooking up some good plans to go to other regional hospitals, to do therapy for kids via internet…lots more good things. Daniel is an old friend of our great bicultural leader, Dr. Luis Montalvan, having attended school together a long time ago. It was totally random that they ran into each other, and now our missions have another local champion.

Interprofessional education continues when we work with our medical student friends, and when we head to the OR to see a rare surgery. Everyone is immersed in learning from morning to night. All of us are teaching and learning and solidifying knowledge across the week–a rich, satisfying stew. I wish I could put it in a bottle and sell it.


About Shari Salzhauer Berkowitz

Shari is a speech language pathologist and assistant professor of communication disorders at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY.
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