#DYWKeyworker - Claire Dunn - Speech & Language Therapist

Tuesday, 2nd June 2020

Name: Claire Dunn

Job Title: Speech & Language Therapist

Company:NHS

Hometown: Hamilton, South Lanarkshire


What attracted you to the industry you are in?

My grandmother had a severe stroke when I was a teenager, this made me interested in how the brain works and led me to complete a degree in Psychology. From this foundation I had become more focused on language and cognition, so studying Speech & Language Therapy seemed like the best direction for me. It was also an opportunity to work closely with people who had a similar experience to my grandmother, who was seen by an SLT several times.

How long have you been with the company?

4 years 5 months

Describe your day-to-day role;

I currently work as a Speech & Language Therapist, and I specialise in adults in an acute hospital setting. I also see a few outpatients, and they come to the outpatient department to see me. The rest of my patients are in the hospital wards. Depending on the day of the week, and the amount of new patient referrals we have, I can be in different locations. I will likely see at least one patient on the acute hospital wards during a typical day.

I see patients who have either a communication (speech/language/voice) difficulty, or a swallowing difficulty.

These difficulties can be caused by many different medical conditions, like: stroke, brain injury, cancer, MS, MND, Parkinsons, dementia.

My role is to assess, and provide therapy and support to patients and families, to help them manage their communication/swallowing difficulty. I feel like it is a very important job, as it would be devastating to me if I couldn’t talk or eat!

What kind of training have you done?Have you completed any professional qualifications?

As I mentioned before, my first degree was a BSc (Hons) in Psychology. However, to become an SLT you only have to do an honours degree in SLT. I have a BSc (Hons) in Speech & Language Therapy from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh

What skills have you learned?

*Effective communication

*Being a good team worker

*Active listening

*Empathy

*Prioritisation

*Organisation

Problem solving and “thinking outside of the box”, especially during the Coronavirus pandemic

Have you completed any professional qualifications?

I have completed my post-graduate dysphagia training, and I am also trained to used a therapeutic technique called McNeill Dysphagia Therapy. (Dysphagia means swallowing disorder)

Do you like living and working in the Inverness & Highlands?

Yes! I am from a suburb just outside Glasgow, so it’s great to have direct access to the wide open spaces of the Highlands. I never knew what I was missing before, and now I don’t know how I managed to live without it! It’s also great when family and friends come up from the Central Belt to visit, because there are so many things to do and see.

What skills are the most important for you to do your job well?

The most important skill is good communication. You must be very good at; listening to people, thinking while listening, then communicating your thoughts to patients, families and other professionals.

Was there anything about the job that surprised you?

I didn’t expect to be so interested in assessing and managing swallowing disorders. Majority of my caseload is made up of these patients

Is there anything unusual about your role?

Not many people know that we sometimes do a live, moving x-ray of people while they swallow, so that we can see where the food/drink goes. We call this a videofluoroscopy. This can be a really helpful tool if people are experiencing food/drink going down the wrong way frequently.

Do you get a lot of support from your company?

Yes! I work in a very close, friendly team. I am encouraged to have frequent peer supervision and have time in my working week to continue to develop my skills and knowledge

What’s your favourite part of the job?

My favourite part is when I discharge a patient because we have reached their goal. There’s no better feeling.

Did you always want to pursue a career in this industry?

I think I have always been interested in medical professions, but was never sure which speciality would suit my interests and skills best. It took a while to get to this specific role, but the winding journey was necessary.

What is your advice for young school leavers looking to start an apprenticeship?

Have an open mind and never rule anything out. No matter what role you decide on, embrace every opportunity – no matter how scary it may seem.

What is your career goal?

To never get bored, and continue to enjoy my role – every day.

How does it feel to be a KeyWorker on the frontline, supporting the Country’s fight against Covid-19?

I feel the same as anyone else, I’d imagine. I feel responsible to ensure I do all I can to support my patients while observing the highest levels of hand hygiene and infection control measures. I feel worried about the health of my patients, family and friends. I feel sad that I can’t celebrate a friend’s special birthday, visit my family 180 miles away, or travel abroad

Tell us what makes you proud to be a Keyworker?

I wouldn’t say that I was particularly proud. I’d say that I feel honoured and lucky to be someone who is qualified and trusted and to help others