Within the field of speech-language pathology, interprofessional practice (IPP) or interprofessional collaborative practice is a growing clinical framework. Graduate programs are incorporating interprofessional education into graduate training and sessions at the annual conference of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association are offered with increased consistency.
When professionals work together, it provides an opportunity to draw on the strengths of each individual field. As a result, professionals develop a deeper sense of appreciation around common points of practice, problems can be addressed from multiple viewpoints and angles, and unique connections are made between two or more fields. Such collaborations not only produce integrated and comprehensive educational plans and healthcare, but are ripe for interesting and diverse research. The World Health Organization provides guidance on interprofessional education and collaboration for healthcare professions.
Interprofessional collaboration is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about these days, as I am a speech-language pathologist (SLP) finishing up a second Master’s degree in the field of Media and Communication. As I navigate these two fields, I often think of the Golden Gate bridge. Any bridge will do, but the Golden Gate holds a special place in my heart.
For two years I commuted across this bridge – I lived in San Francisco and worked north of the bridge in Marin County. As a result, I saw this bridge from thousands of angles, each morphed by the day’s light and each season’s weather.
Merriam-Webster defines a bridge as “a structure carrying a pathway or roadway over a depression or obstacle” or “a time, place, or means of connection or transition.”
The Golden Gate connected two worlds – work and play, a fast-paced urban life with the slow pace of small towns, and the architecture of skyscrapers and Victorian homes with the Craftsman style homes of coastal towns.
As SLPs we live among bridges.
Bridges connect us with our students and patients. We constantly make connections between the level a student or patient is currently performing at and where they need to be in order to master target communication skills. We help our students and patients bridge the therapeutic and academic, social, and vocational worlds.
Bridges connect our knowledge and training with clinical practice. We consistently make connections between new information and that previously learned, specific to evolving clinical situations.
Bridges connect us with each other, both fellow speech-language pathologists and other professionals involved in student education and patient care – caregivers and parents, diagnosticians, occupational and physical therapists, audiologists, general and special education teachers, librarians, administrators, nurses, physicians, dentists, respiratory therapists, and many, many more.
Bridges help us take exciting technological platforms and transport them into high quality therapeutic experiences for our students, patients, and their families.
Regardless of the worlds that your bridge connects, it’s easy to feel overly comfortable and confident on one side of the bridge. Over the past few years, I’ve felt most comfortable on the speech pathology side of the bridge. But as I learn more about media and communication, apply more of it to my own practice as an SLP, and collaborate with others in this new field, the more I strengthen the bridge that connects these two complementary fields.
Regardless of the worlds your bridge connects, don’t let the fog, the distance, or the height of your bridge dissuade you from journeying across.