15 July 2016
Louise Rourke, a highly specialist speech and language therapist at the Royal Free Hospital, was inspired to join the profession while studying English Language at university.
“I first really found out about speech therapy while studying linguistics at the University of Reading. It seemed like a great thing to do so I did a post-graduate course in speech and language therapy at University College London.
“During my course I did a number of placements, but my first actual job after qualifying in 2010 was at Southend University Hospital. At first it was quite intimidating and surreal. As a newly- qualified speech and language therapist you find yourself dealing with quite complex patients and you feel like you should know what you’re doing straight away. But in a way you learn more in those first six months than you do while training.
“I joined the Royal Free London after six months at Southend. I wanted to move to a big hospital where I knew there would be a lot more opportunities to learn and develop. I worked here first as a band 5 therapist and then took up a similar role at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. I came back to the Royal Free Hospital as a band 6 last year and was recently promoted to a band 7 role, which was a surprise. I didn’t think I would progress so quickly.
“I’m currently one of the senior therapists in the neurosciences team. I see patients with speech, language and swallowing difficulties on the stroke and neuro wards, as well as patients on renal and oncology wards. A lot of our patients have had strokes and my role is to identify how this has affected them, and work closely with physiotherapists, occupational therapists and dieticians to provide treatment, education and counselling to patients and their families.
“It can be challenging because we have a high turnover of patients and there is often a real desire from families to get patients home as soon as possible, which can be difficult if they are in a very different condition to the one they were in before they got ill.
“That said, I love the job. I love working with people and I love that every day is different and you aren’t sitting at a desk. It’s great working as part of a multidisciplinary team. You work closely with therapists and nurses and you really feel those relationships develop and grow.”