September 12, 2020 7:46:19 PM
Mississippi University for Women's chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) is helping give a voice to the potentially voiceless in the Golden Triangle.
"Given the current circumstances, we knew the communication ability of patients was being impaired due to COVID-19. We wanted to find a way to improve their communication and also support the healthcare professionals as well," said Sarah Williams, NSSLHA chapter president.
Williams, a speech-language pathology student, and fellow NSSLHA officers identified an opportunity to assist COVID-19 patients as speech-language pathologists. Using money from recent fundraising events, the students created low-tech communication boards to enable healthcare providers and families to communicate with individuals on ventilators or those too weak to use speech.
Williams explained, "Communication is a human right that many of us take for granted. We communicate for many purposes: to express ourselves, to voice our feelings, to request information, to ask for help and much more. The communication boards will give the patients a way to express their thoughts through nonverbal means. The communication boards will also allow health care providers the opportunity to know the needs of patients in order to best serve them medically and emotionally."
The students used software from The W's Department of Speech-Language Pathology to create the communication boards then laminated the boards in order to be cleaned and reused.
"Communication is not just essential for healthcare needs, it helps ward off loneliness and isolation that some patients experience during COVID-19. Patients with limited communication are three times more likely to experience a preventable adverse medical event," said Dr. Kathy Shapley, chair of the Speech-Language Pathology Department. "Our local NSSLHA students and our faculty advisers never miss an opportunity to address a need in our community."
The 200 boards created by the students will be distributed to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Columbus, Oktibbeha County Hospital in Starkville and North Mississippi Medical Center in West Point as well as skilled nursing facilities in the Golden Triangle area.