EKU Communication Disorders Program Helps Community Through Telepractice

Published on April 08, 2020

While offices, schools and universities nationwide remain closed to the public, critical services like speech-language therapy must go on. Graduate students in the EKU Communication Disorders program are putting their skills into practice to fill the gap. Using the remote conferencing app Zoom, student clinicians continue to provide speech-language therapy to clients of EKU’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic. 

“Not only has the use of telepractice allowed our clinic to continue providing service to the community during this time, the use of this service delivery model is providing our students with a unique and powerful training experience,”  said program director Kellie Ellis. 

Graduate student clinician Mariah Rosanbalm attested to that unique and powerful experience.

“This situation has given me the opportunity to learn a new skill in our profession that I wouldn’t have necessarily gained otherwise. I am thankful for a program and college that have provided us with an opportunity to continue providing therapy in the midst of all that is going on in the world,” she said. “I have seen firsthand the regression that clients can make when there is a large gap in service delivery time. Through the implementation of tele-therapy, our clients are given the opportunity to progress rather than regress.”

The Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic clinic serves clients of all ages, providing therapy to adults with swallowing and cognitive disorders resulting from traumatic injuries, and for children with speech, language and literacy disorders. Thanks to a grant from the WHAS Crusade for Children, the clinic was able to begin some teletherapy sessions before the COVID-19 outbreak, which made the transition more manageable.

“The clinic provided telepractice in past semesters for clients in our service region that couldn’t travel to campus,” said clinic director Robyn Wahl. “ We just took the system we already had in place to a whole new level.”  

However, transitioning all clients to telepractice took a good deal of effort.

“Make no mistake: altering the service delivery model was no small feat,” said Ellis. “Our Clinic team worked tirelessly to identify appropriate technology resources, ensure compliance with licensure and patient confidentiality regulations, provide training to students and supervisors, and coordinate the schedules of the patient, student clinician, and supervisor.” 

The use of telepractice at EKU is not limited to the clinic, though. Graduate students completing externships in hospitals, long-term care facilities and schools have also taken advantage of the technology. Through teletherapy, graduate student Blake Fraley has provided therapy for veterans with voice and swallowing disorders at the veteran’s hospital in Lexington.

“I am extremely grateful that I have the opportunity to gain experience with telepractice during my medical rotation at the VA,” said Fraley. “It is a service delivery system that allows us to reach clients that live too far away from Lexington to come to our clinic every week, or are too medically fragile to travel. Due to this flexibility we are able to consistently see clients weekly, which allows us to help establish and maintain new vocal behaviors and keep current with the client's status and concerns.”

For more information on the Communication Disorders program and teletherapy tools for SLPs, visit cd.eku.edu