Swallowing Awareness Day: Interviews with Yooralla Speech Pathologists, Kirstie and Madeleine

Did you know that humans swallow between 500 and 700 times a day, around three times an hour during sleep, once per minute while awake and even more during meals? Just like breathing, swallowing is essential to everyday life.

Around one million Australians have a swallowing difficulty, known as dysphagia. Swallowing problems can occur at any stage of life. However, the knowledge of dysphagia and its implications remain largely unknown for most Australians.

Swallowing Awareness Day takes place on 16 March this year and is an opportunity to bring attention to swallowing disorders and to connect people with speech pathologists, the professionals who can help.

We spoke to two of Yooralla’s Speech Pathologists, Kirstie and Madeleine, to gain some insights into their roles and in supporting people with swallowing difficulties at Yooralla.

Madeleine – Speech Pathologist/Key Worker and Team Leader (pictured top right)

What are some key qualities required to be a Speech Pathologist at Yooralla?

I truly believe that if you’re motivated and inspired to work within a team to problem solve highly complex situations and achieve best outcomes that are person and family-centred, you will love working for Yooralla. It’s fast-paced and challenging, and there are so many opportunities to learn and consolidate new and established skills.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your role?

The people (clients and colleagues alike) are, without doubt, the main reason why I love working for Yooralla. I have the privilege of working with clients and their families who inspire, challenge and motivate me.

The disability sector is incredibly diverse and Yooralla advocates and embraces the opportunity to work with anyone and everyone. I’m also very fortunate to work within a large team of brilliant Allied Health professionals who are all generous in sharing their time and knowledge. I believe this is invaluable regardless of where you are in your career.

I’ve been especially grateful for the opportunity to develop and hone my special interest in paediatric feeding. The combination of individual and team mentoring, in-house professional development and external PD allowance has enabled me to learn and develop these skills in a highly supportive environment. It’s incredibly rewarding supporting a young child and their family to achieve their feeding goals.

Describe a typical day as a Speech Pathologist

I’m fortunate to work within two roles at Yooralla – as Team Leader and Speech Pathologist/Key Worker. Career progression is an ongoing priority for me and I’m grateful that I’ve been supported and provided with the opportunities to work in different positions within the organisation.

Both these roles offer autonomy and flexibility, and I appreciate the varied tasks and challenges associated with each position. Yooralla recognises and supports my work/life balance by giving me some flexibility within my working week. For example, if I have a later session I can negotiate to start or finish slightly later/earlier the next day. Who doesn’t like finishing an hour early on a Friday! I also thoroughly enjoy my rostered day off once a month!

Kirstie – Speech Pathologist/Keyworker (pictured top left)

What are the key qualities required to be a Speech Pathologist at Yooralla?

A person who:

  • would like the challenge of a caseload with complex needs
  • has a passion for communication
  • likes working out and about in home and community settings
  • likes a diverse caseload and areas of work as a Speech Pathologist
  • can work well with other Allied Health professionals.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your role?

Supporting children and families to work towards their goals in communication and swallowing –  eating and drinking skills can be very rewarding. I enjoy helping children communicate to reduce their frustration and connect better with family and friends. I also enjoy providing information, strategies and trialling equipment with the child’s family and support team to ensure children are in the best position to eat and drink safely (and with enjoyment!).

Training can be provided to support the team such as Educators & Assistants at Child care, Kinder, Before or After school care, school staff and support workers. For some children this will involve developing a “How I eat and drink” or Mealtime Profile and discussing important features so that the child can be supported to enjoy eating safely with optimal independence.

I find the challenge of working with children who are “picky” eaters who are anxious and selective about what they eat particularly rewarding. Working with the families to make changes in routines and habits so that children can be more comfortable to explore new or different foods can be very satisfying.

I love having the peer support of other Speech Pathologists in our office and also from my Manager, Team Leader and Clinical Supervisor so we can share ideas and keep learning. There have been many more opportunities to meet together online, share information and work on our own learning and best practice over the past 2 years, and that’s been really good!

One of the aspects of my job that I really love is working together with Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Psychologists. I have learned so much from them and this is one of the best parts of my job.

I really it very rewarding working in the Keyworker role in early intervention, working with families towards their goals to make positive changes in mealtimes, sleep routines, supporting behaviour and play skills.

Describe a typical day as a Speech Pathologist

I have worked in this current team for 20+ years and no day is ever the same! I like the diversity in my caseload and the flexibility of making my own appointment times. I complete most of my appointments out of the office, working with children and families in their home, Child Care, Kinder and school. I usually have 3-4 appointments per day.

Interested in joining the passionate Yooralla Allied Health team? Find out more about working in Allied Health at Yooralla as a Speech Pathologist.

For a limited time, Yooralla is offering financial bonuses to any Allied Health professional who joins our experienced, supportive team. This role is eligible for the financial incentive.  

Apply now!

Read more about Yooralla’s Speech Pathology and Therapy team or contact 03 9666 4500.

Find out more about how you can get involved on Swallowing Awareness Day. ​​​​​​​

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