UCF has designed a new course in its graduate clinical speech pathology program with high relevance to COVID-19. The special topics course is titled Post COVID-19 Clinical Practice in Medical Speech-Language Pathology” and is geared toward preparing clinical professionals to meet the complex needs of patients hospitalized from COVID-19 and other related conditions.

Patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 are often put on ventilators to assist their breathing. Prolonged ventilator use puts a strain on the vocal cords and reduces respiratory muscle strength, which can impact breathing, speech and swallowing. Speech language pathologists are specialists in upper airway, aerodigestive and laryngeal function disorders and are a key part of patient recovery teams.

“This course provides up-to-the-minute information that fills a need in the education of both practicing clinicians, and students about to enter the field.” – Bari Hoffman Ruddy, associate dean of clinical affairs for the College of Health Professions and Sciences

“This course provides up-to-the-minute information that fills a need in the education of both practicing clinicians, and students about to enter the field,” says Bari Hoffman Ruddy, associate dean of clinical affairs for the College of Health Professions and Sciences, who co-designed the course with colleague Vicki Lewis, an instructor in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders. “This specialized curriculum focuses on managing the potential medical issues patients may experience across the continuum of care. This course includes content that is not readily available and is ever-evolving as new data become available. We hope this course will yield workforce ready clinicians who are prepared to meet the challenges in today’s complex healthcare environment.”

Both Hoffman Ruddy and Lewis specialize in complex medical conditions with a focus on upper airway and disorders of the larynx (voice box) making them uniquely qualified to lead the course.  Lewis has over 25 years’ experience in the acute care setting working closely with cardiothoracic surgery, otolaryngology, pulmonology and other medical specialists.

Due to the pandemic, the course delivery will be fully online.  Students will be mailed simulation materials and medical supplies which will be utilized throughout the course. Students will engage in hands-on training in how to accomplish a range of procedures, such as tracheostomy care, speaking valve care, and infection prevention.

“This 3-credit hour master’s level course is available to current students in the graduate program in speech-language pathology and to clinical speech-language pathologists in the field interested in advancing their knowledge and skill set in medical speech-language pathology,” says Jennifer Kent-Walsh, interim director of the School of Communication Sciences and Disorder. “The course affords immediate engagement with content relevant to the post COVID-19 patient, and is expected to be an important steppingstone for future interdisciplinary healthcare course offerings in the College of Health Professions and Sciences at UCF.”

The course is offered in the Summer B term starting on June 23.  Registration begins in early June.

“While COVID-19 will eventually be downgraded from a pandemic, what is here to stay is how we train our healthcare providers to respond to these types of situations,” says Hoffman Ruddy. “This pandemic has forever changed how we deliver care. The course will meet both the short-term needs of the healthcare industry and strengthen the curriculum of future healthcare professionals at UCF.”