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Nepean Hospital speech pathologists, Claire Pelham and Pauline Eldridge

Five decades of Speech Pathology at Nepean Hospital

27 Jul 2022


From a lone part-time speech pathologist in 1972, today’s Nepean Hospital speech pathology team of 13 deliver care to patients throughout the hospital.

Fifty years on from the appointment of that very first speech pathologist, the speech pathology team are now an established and valuable allied health service at Nepean Hospital.

The service performs a critical role supporting the daily care and recovery for patients experiencing swallowing and communication problems including speech, voice and language difficulties.

Nepean Hospital Speech Pathologist, Maggy Kinniburgh says supporting recovery and enhancing a patient’s quality of life is their priority.

“Eating, drinking and communicating are fundamental parts of being human. Difficulties in these areas can have tremendous impacts on quality of life,” Maggy says.

The hospital’s speech pathologists work across specialties including neurology and rehabilitation, critical care, oncology, paediatrics, neonatal intensive care and aged care.

While speech pathologists are long-established in many of these services, the team are also a relatively new addition to some health specialties.

“We love working as part of a multidisciplinary care team and learn so much from collaborating with other health professionals. In turn, we can improve patient care with our skill set,” says Maggy.

Maggy says the speech pathology service provides help across the life span, from neonates born too early and who need assistance to coordinate breathing and swallowing, to patients receiving palliative care who wish to continue enjoying life’s small pleasures, such as a cup of tea.

“There are many health conditions that can result in patients requiring our support,” Maggy says.

“Swallowing and communication problems can develop from stroke, dementia, head and neck cancer, or critical illnesses such as severe COVID-19. These are life changing conditions and we’re here to support their recovery and quality of life.”

“Any improvements in swallowing and communication have the potential to really help people feel more like themselves again after being so unwell. It’s a great feeling, to know that you’re making someone’s hospital stay better,” Maggy says.

While the team at Nepean Hospital relish the diversity of their roles, Maggy says it’s the rewarding nature of the work that truly keeps them motivated.

“I still feel after 11 years of being a speech pathologist, that it’s an honour to be involved with the patients we care for,” Maggy says.

Congratulations to Nepean Hospital’s Speech Pathology team as they celebrate 50 years of care!