2012: Providing Dysphagia Education for Patients and Clinicians

Happy New Year! I am eager to start the new year and launch all my new plans for the Carter Swallowing Center. For me 2012 will be all about Reaching Dysphagia Patients and Teaching Dysphagia Clinicians…

Reaching dysphagia patients:   Anyone who has ever heard me talk about my swallowing center for more than 5 minutes has probably heard about my dream for the clinic:  I want any patients who have dysphagia and want to get better to be able to find my clinic so that I can help them recover their swallowing function.   My previous job as a dysphagia clinical specialist for VitalStim allowed me an opportunity to learn about all the latest treatments for difficulty swallowing so that I could then teach VitalStim customers about these dysphagia treatments.   While that was a fun and intellectually stimulating job, the more I learned the more I missed treating my own patients.   In January 2011 my dream of creating my own swallowing clinic where patients can have access to all of these great new treatments began to take form (see my blog about that journey).

So, for 2012 my quest continues to spread the word about all of the new possibilities for treating dysphagia and to let patients and doctors know that difficulty swallowing CAN get better!    I have plans to speak to more patient groups and physician offices about the latest treatments for dysphagia.  One group that I feel can particularly benefit from these new treatments are patients who have been treated for head and neck cancer and are unable to swallow after the cancer treatment.   Check out my other blog post about the treatments for this population.   What is so exciting about reaching out to this group is that until very recently, swallowing therapy for this population was just not that effective.  The tough fibrotic tissue that forms on the neck after radiation treatment limited what could be done.   It has been exciting to see several of my patients that had not benefited from previous attempts at swallowing therapy successfully respond to the new dysphagia treatments I provided.  In 2012 I hope to help a lot more patients know about the new options available that could help their swallowing.


Teaching dysphagia clinicians:   As a speech pathologist that treats patients with dysphagia, I feel fortunate to have a job that I absolutely love.  I enjoy my job so much that even when I’m not at work, I love talking about dysphagia (OK, I admit that’s a little geeky).  So an equally rewarding part of my job is being able to teach other clinicians who treat dysphagia and hopefully help enhance the swallowing therapy that their patients receive.  For 2012, I will be continuing to teach the CIAO Seminars VitalStim certification course around the country.   After I took the certification course myself in 2005, VitalStim Therapy changed the way I do swallowing therapy.  So it is very rewarding to be able to “pass the torch” and show other clinicians how to use this modality.   I will also continue teaching a 2-day Dysphagia Evaluation and Treatment course.  This course really dives into all of the latest swallowing treatments so it again allows me the opportunity to not only share what I have been able to learn about dysphagia but also to hear great ideas from other dysphagia clinicians.  I always say that we clinicians all have a lot to learn from each other, so I am also excited to be starting the Denver Dysphagia Rounds which will allow us Denver dysphagia clinicians a chance to come together 4 times a year to share ideas and learn from one another.

In addition to traveling to teach speech pathologists around the country, I am excited to announce that I have 2 webinars about dysphagia that should be available on the CIAO Seminars website any day now (links to the courses to follow).  One is a 3 hour course on esophageal dysphagia and the role of the SLP, and the other is a 1 hour course on the neurophysiology of swallowing.  I hope that both of these tools will be valuable to dysphagia clinicians out there and that the format of an on-demand webinar will be able to reach a broader audience.


To me, it’s all about spreading the word about therapy for difficulty swallowing.   Letting patients and doctors know that treatment is now much more than just thickening liquids (yuck) and helping other clinicians learn about all of the new advances in dysphagia treatment.  So here’s to 2012…may that many more people be able to recover their swallowing function this year!

What are your plans and goals for 2012??

 photo courtesy of Ludie Cochran Flickr Creative Commons License

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Author: Jennifer Carter

Jen is a Denver speech pathologist that specializes in providing treatment for swallowing difficulty (called dysphagia). She has provided speech therapy to patients for 18 years and opened the Carter Swallowing Center because of her passion for helping patients recover from swallowing problems.

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