Posted: May 18, 2016

The work of speech language pathologists (SLPs) is about communication… and more.

For four years, Jessa Bamford has worked closely with patients who are recovering at GRH’s Freeport Campus.

While Jessa is involved in helping patients regain communication skills, she’s also focused on safe swallowing. Illness or injury can affect a patient’s ability to eat and drink effectively.

Jessa is there alongside patients, working with them to support their health and quality of life.

Jessa Bamford
What drew you to speech-language pathology?

I chose to become an SLP as I have always been fascinated by the brain and loved helping others. After hearing about how an SLP helped a family member after an illness, I began to think about how important communication and swallowing are to me – I love to talk and I love to eat!

I wanted to help people improve their ability to connect with others and enjoy their lives to the fullest.

How do you support patients?

I cover four programs at GRH’s Freeport Campus. On the palliative unit, I help patients make choices about eating and drinking for improved quality of life while trying to minimize risks.

On the complex medical and respiratory unit, I assist clients with tracheostomy or complex medical needs in improving swallowing safety and/or using alternative communication methods to communicate with others.

On the geriatric assessment and neurobehavioural unit, I help patients with cognitive impairment who may have difficulty remembering how to interact with food and drinks safely.

Finally, in the outpatient neuro-rehab clinic, I help clients improve their communication or swallowing skills after a neurological event such as a stroke.  

Why is helping patients with swallowing so important?

I think there are two common misconceptions about swallowing; that swallowing is a reflex and that if you having trouble swallowing, you choke or cough when eating.

In fact, many people show no obvious signs of a swallowing impairment when eating or drinking. Swallowing is also much more than a reflex, involving approximately 50 pairs of muscles and many nerves that receive and prepare food in the mouth and move it from the mouth to the stomach!

Why are you passionate about your job?

I love my job because I get to help people every day and my job is never boring! Working on so many units means that every person I see has their own unique story, with different needs and goals – and these goals may be entirely different than I expected!

I love hearing these stories, helping others express themselves and enjoy eating and drinking when possible. My job is incredibly rewarding and keeps my mind active.

I feel incredibly humbled by the hard working and tenacious patients I work with every day. They inspire me to keep learning, give all that I can to help and keep trying, especially when it is hard! 

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