18 November 2022

BSc Speech and Language Therapy - Elissa Poyner

Course

BSc Speech and Language Therapy

Could you talk about your current role?

I'm currently a specialist speech and language therapist working in Norwich. I work with people who have had a stroke and their families.

I work across two different settings. One setting is a stroke in-patient rehabilitation ward - patients that have been transferred from an acute setting for further rehabilitation before discharge.

This role involves assessing swallowing and communication difficulties, supporting people with their adjustment to stroke and working with them towards their rehab goals. A lot of the role also involves stroke education and supporting families to communicate.

The other side of my role is in the community, in the Early Supported Discharge stroke team. They support people with the transition between hospital and home, providing 6 weeks of therapy in the patient’s own home, personalised to their individual goals.

Examples of sessions have been supporting patient’s to order fish and chips  from a local takeaway, being able to give instructions to their dog, helping them return to eating a roast dinner, and supporting a patient to return to their radio club. I love the person-centred therapy you can provide and it’s a privilege to get to know each person and their families.

Which jobs did you take before you arrived there?

After I graduated, my first job was a band 5 role in Ipswich - set across acute and community services.

I worked with a range of conditions, not just stroke. And from that role I learned a lot about the different areas of speech therapy.

I then progressed to a band 6 role in the Ipswich team. This was a rotational role, working across acute wards, community and stroke wards. Again, I was involved in assessing and providing therapy to people with a range of conditions: dementia, Parkinson's Disease, MS, Motor Neuron Disease, Traumatic Brain Injury and more– the role is very varied.

After my stroke rotation, I felt I wanted to specialise in this area particularly.  

What drew you to the Speech and Language Therapy BSc at UEA?

I'd never been to Norfolk before. As soon as I saw the UEA campus and looked around, it just felt right.

I think you get a feeling with these things and the campus is beautiful. The campus with the lake and nature is beautiful and I got a warm and friendly feeling from the students and staff. Norwich is a beautiful city and there's loads going on.

It's great for a night out, it's great for a day out. You’ve got beautiful areas like the beaches and the Broads, and that was really important to me. The course had good reviews and it was well listed so I decided to make the UEA my first choice.

What was your favourite thing about the course?

The clinical placements were my favourite part –I really benefitted from the hands-on learning.

It's where you can really apply the theory, and it's the most representative of what the job is actually going to be like.  

You work with patients with communication difficulties and the multidisciplinary team. You feel really integrated in a team and prepared for what your job is going to be like down the line. It is reassuring as well because if you enjoy your placements, you know that you’re on the right course.

What did you learn at UEA that you still use today?

All of the adult acquired lectures were really helpful, learning about acquired communication and swallowing difficulties.

I still use the theory I learned then and have the skills to explore recent literature and apply this to my practice. 

From a more basic level, it's useful to learn skills in communicating with people with communication difficulties such as aphasia, particularly if you haven’t done this before the degree. UEA provide the opportunity to meet people with aphasia both on placements and through the University. I remember that people with aphasia were involved in our training and some of our lectures, which was great.

Did you use any services at UEA to help you thinking about your career?

I remember searching for jobs towards the end of my degree and being slightly terrified at the prospect of having an interview for a job that was going to be my career.

I went to CareerCentral at UEA and told them my worries. They kindly offered to practice with me.

They were really helpful because they actually revised speech therapy and what interview questions could come up, and it was very personalised to me. Having that practice with somebody that I didn't know was really beneficial.

Did you do any extracurricular activities at UEA?

I was part of the Speech and Language Therapy Society, which is run by students that do the course.

That was good for some nights out with your course mates, and we ran awareness events for speech therapy, and charity fundraising events.

I also joined the British Sign Language Society, which was really fun and important to learn. I was a PAL mentor, Peer Assisted Learning mentor, as well at UEA.  Through this scheme, I provided teaching to other students in lower years on the Speech Therapy course.

Do you have a favourite memory of UEA?

What will always stand out to me is those first few weeks of uni. I’d come straight from school to university, so it was my first real experience of living away from home with strangers, which is quite terrifying.

It was actually amazing and just getting to know people  and enjoying nights out and exploring Norwich was really fun.

Skipping to the end of the course, I just remember feeling really proud of myself when I handed in my dissertation and we all went for a drink after the graduation ceremony. There's good memories and such a sense of achievement at the end.

Did you feel prepared, leaving UEA?

The degree definitely prepared me in the sense that I had the right qualifications for the job that I wanted to do.

I don’t think you’ll ever feel fully prepared for starting your career, but UEA definitely gave me the tools I needed to continue my working journey myself!Studying at UEA also slightly changed my journey because I went into the degree thinking that I wanted to work in Paediatrics. I didn't really know the extent of how speech and language therapists work with adults and it was only when I started the course and experienced my placements that I realised this was my preference and felt right for me.

What’s your favourite aspect about your current role?

I love working with people.

I love meeting my patients and their families and getting to know them, finding out their story, and then working with them to identify what's most important for them to get back to since their stroke.

I find my job really interesting. It’s fascinating to explore the different ways the brain is affected by stroke and how you can support people with their recovery. Every day is varied and different and the days go quickly! I feel privileged to be a part of my patients’ journey and I also get excited about the prospect of doing research and finding out more about speech therapy and the best way we can do things to help people in the future.

Can you see yourself staying in the stroke specialist area?

For the moment, I'm still learning things every day. So while that's still the case, I will stay where I am.

Like I said, there's so many different avenues you can go down with speech and language therapy, and there's other conditions that you can work with. You can work in stroke, you can work with acquired progressive conditions or people that are terminally ill, people with learning disabilities, people who are deaf or hearing impaired, there’s lots of options! 

There are also jobs that involve supporting people with communication difficulties in court and legal settings. There's lots of areas that I do find fascinating, but I think I'm happy where I am for now.

Do you have any advice for prospective Speech and Language Therapy students?

Do it! We need more speech therapists and more awareness of what the SLT role and how members of the public can support people with communication difficulties.

When you're on the course, work with your peers. Group work outside of lectures really helps with understanding and learning.

Embrace your placement time, because that's the time you really get to figure out what area you want to work in and learn the skills that will set you up for your first job role. I think you learn the most by doing the actual job in practice.

Be kind to yourself, because it's a hard course and it's amazing that you've got there. There always feels like there's more to know – I still feel like that. The learning never stops, so be kind to yourself and access support from the university and your friends when you need it, but just enjoy it. 

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