How consistent are UK Speech and Language Therapists’ opinions on the use and interpretation of Cervical Auscultation and Pulse Oximetry?
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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The purpose of this study was to establish the opinions of Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs), in the UK, on the use and interpretation of cervical auscultation (CA) and pulse oximetry (PulseOx) as tools for dysphagia assessment. The study was designed to investigate the consistency of SLTs’ opinions, and to determine whether factors such as years of practice and hours of training influenced these. A 41 question survey was distributed to clinical excellence networks focused on the subject of dysphagia and to the author’s personal contacts. The survey received 101 responses from dysphagia qualified Speech and Language Therapists. The results of the survey show that the participants had variable views surrounding the majority of elements of both CA and PulseOx. Only 35 participants agreed that CA is essential to the assessment of dysphagia, and only 28 agreed that PulseOx is essential. 96 participants felt that CA should be used in dysphagia assessment to some extent and 94 participants felt that PulseOx should be used to some extent. However there was a lack of agreement in how often both tools should be used. 59 participants felt that listening for changes in pre- and post-swallow breath sounds is the most beneficial way to conduct cervical auscultation. The way in which pulse oximetry should be interpreted received much variability. Several significant, strong, positive correlations were found between participants’ years of practice post dysphagia qualification, hours of training received on the use of the tools, participants’ agreement that the tools were essential, and their opinions on how often the tools should be used. These correlations suggest that demonstrate that SLTs who have been practising longer, are more likely to have received formal training, SLTs who have had training in CA are more likely to agree that CA is essential, and SLTs who use one tool, are more likely to support the use of the other. The variability of the participants’ opinions was shown to reflect the lack of consensus in the literature, and the nature of the opinions reflect the guidance given by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. Further recommendations for research is discussed, focusing on the need to investigate reasons for decision making, and the need for a comprehensive study requiring NHS ethical approval into SLTs’ use of CA and PulseOx in clinical practice.
B.Sc. (Hons) Speech and Language Therapy
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