Dining, Drinks and Dysphagia Creating a learning community helps clinicians stay current, network, share resources—and even earn CEUs. Make It Work
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Make It Work  |   September 01, 2017
Dining, Drinks and Dysphagia
Author Notes
  • Carrie E. Mills, PhD, CCC-SLP, is an adjunct professor in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and a clinician at Wellpark at Shannondale, a short-term and outpatient rehabilitation facility in Knoxville. cmills3@uthsc.edu
    Carrie E. Mills, PhD, CCC-SLP, is an adjunct professor in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and a clinician at Wellpark at Shannondale, a short-term and outpatient rehabilitation facility in Knoxville. cmills3@uthsc.edu×
Article Information
Swallowing, Dysphagia & Feeding Disorders / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Make It Work
Make It Work   |   September 01, 2017
Dining, Drinks and Dysphagia
The ASHA Leader, September 2017, Vol. 22, 34-35. doi:10.1044/leader.MIW.22092017.34
The ASHA Leader, September 2017, Vol. 22, 34-35. doi:10.1044/leader.MIW.22092017.34
Have you ever attended a conference that leaves you excited and inspired at the same time? One that challenges your knowledge base, provides clinical applications to your caseload, and reinforces the very reason you entered this field in the first place? You leave elated, wanting to share your ideas with colleagues and others who work with your caseload population.
That’s exactly what happened to me and four speech-language pathologist friends after a 2013 conference on swallowing research. We were pumped up and anxious to implement all we’d learned on Monday morning. “Everyone should know about this!” we thought.
I shared this enthusiasm over dinner with Nancy Swigert—1998 ASHA president and director of speech-language pathology and respiratory care at Baptist Health in Lexington, Kentucky—after she gave a talk at our annual departmental conference. I told her I wanted to start a community group to share clinically relevant, evidence-based practices, and she connected me with a friend, Alice Inman, who organized what she called a “journal group” in Kentucky. And D3—Dining, Drinks and Dysphagia—was born.

I wanted to start a community group to share clinically relevant, evidence-based practices.

Dining, drinks and dysphagia
Our first meeting—arranged through text messages among the interested friends and their colleagues—drew six people. Now D3 meets monthly over dinner at a local restaurant. We have gradually added more structure and organization, switching from email lists to Facebook organization so we could easily communicate with one another and share resources. As the coordinator of the University of Tennessee’s off-campus practicum and externship programs, I wanted to thank the off-campus supervisors who provide training to our students, so we started providing free CEUs to all participants. We also registered with the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders, through which we share our group’s mission with SLPs in the larger dysphagia community.
Our group now has more than 90 members. We typically have 10–20 at each monthly meeting, and we have had to change restaurants multiple times to support our growing numbers. Sometimes members bring student interns as guests, so students can interact with their future colleagues and form new professional relationships. We each contribute about $5 to cover the cost of the room.
Each meeting features a presentation by a group member or invited speaker followed by a case study (time allowing) and a question-and-answer period. Typically, one person leads our 75-minute meeting, and all are invited to lead or co-lead the discussions. We also share job listings and discuss professional goals and challenges in achieving them. We talk about changes in health care that affect our ability to provide services. We review a new technique, and sometimes decide to attend a training conference on that topic (and receive a group rate!).
Topics
Early on, we focused on topics related to the latest dysphagia research from publications, presentations and current events. We expanded our discussions to include more foundational information, including dysphagia characteristics in special populations (diagnostic characteristics and how to treat), evidence-based therapeutic practices and case studies inspired by current and past challenges. We have included interdisciplinary speakers, vendors and nationally recognized presenters.
Recent meetings have examined avoiding litigation in dysphagia treatment, current trends in feeding tubes, techniques to help reduce the risk of aspiration pneumonia in various populations, use of endoscopy as biofeedback tool and dysphagia in rare syndromes.
Making it happen
Are you interesting in forming your own group? Here are some things to consider.
  • Will you offer CEUs? If so, you can pair with an organization that provides CEUs (consider national or state speech-language pathology or audiology-affiliated groups, universities or even private companies), or register through ASHA to become a provider. The costs associated with these options vary (higher for the latter). Topics need to be reviewed by ASHA, and you must complete a specific form to disclose financial and nonfinancial affiliations and to establish learning objectives and competency questions.

  • How will you organize your group? The many available online media connections provide more opportunities for collaboration and organization. Chose a medium that allows for the appropriate level of openness (open versus closed group membership), member privacy and sharing of materials, and that offers the easiest way to reach your group quickly and efficiently. Consider your time and energy!

  • Where will you meet? We chose a restaurant as it was more convenient to meet during dinner, and many restaurants have private meeting rooms for small to large groups. However, this arrangement may require a minimum order or a room charge. Other spaces (libraries, churches, nonprofit organizations) may be viable alternatives.

  • What presentation medium will you use? Many meeting rooms (even in restaurants) now offer free multimedia options (such as flat-screen monitors that can be paired with your laptop), but be sure you are familiar with the cables and equipment you need. If you provide handouts, consider including the cost of printing in the evening’s fee. Local grants through nonprofit organizations may also help to defer membership costs.

  • Share and rotate the responsibilities. Identify members who can be responsible for weekly duties: confirming the room, collecting forms for CEUs, establishing topics, collecting room fees. This collaboration can keep the group strong through mutual investment!

It’s clear from a survey that the group is filling a need. D3 members reported that participating in the group provides opportunities for collaboration, especially on difficult cases, as well as opportunities to learn about a variety of resources for evaluation and treatment, learn about new techniques and treatment practices, receive support from others who face similar challenges, obtain free CEUs and share job openings and resources.
And students who attended D3 meetings had a great time meeting professionals—their potential employers and colleagues—in the community, learning about “real-life” issues and finding out about potential jobs.
You can build a professional learning community around any topic or group of professionals. Try one and see where it takes you!
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September 2017
Volume 22, Issue 9