Speech and language therapist Faye McLoughlin is blazing a trail as NCA’s first SLT to become an Associate Principal Investigator (API) in research.
She is adding to her research knowledge and skills working on an important trial to improve care for people with swallowing problems (dysphagia) after stroke.
Dysphagia affects as many as one in two stroke survivors and can lead to chest infections, poor nutrition, the need for a feeding tube inserted into the stomach, long hospital stays and disability. It reduces quality of life and adds to the physical, mental and emotional cost of stroke.
The PhEAST study is looking at whether Pharyngeal Electrical Stimulation (PES) can help people by stimulating nerves in the back of the neck that are used for swallowing.
Faye is also the first colleague at Bury Care Organisation to join the six-month API programme, an in-work training opportunity providing practical experience for healthcare professionals starting their research career. It’s endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and Royal Colleges.
She’d already been part of the study, identifying and assessing potential participants and liaising with Bury’s research delivery team, and has always been interested in research so becoming an API was a logical step for Faye.
“Speech and language therapy is an evidence-based discipline but managing dysphagia in stroke is an area where the evidence is incomplete,” she explained. “We often use thickeners in fluids and foods to reduce the risk of aspiration pneumonia – but many patients dislike it. That can mean they don’t drink enough fluids and therefore have to have intravenous fluids. If PES is shown to improve swallowing, it could benefit many stroke survivors.”
While Faye is at the start of the API programme currently, she plans to use it as the first step towards the NIHR Pre-doctoral Clinical and Practitioner Academic Fellowship programme, which offers salaried time to develop a PhD application and have further academic training.
She said: “I love reading research, I find it fascinating and I love learning. I want to build my career as an Allied Health Professional while keeping patient contact and research will give me the opportunity to do that and to keep learning.”
Faye, who already has a Masters degree in speech therapy, says she has benefited from working in a really innovative department at Fairfield General Hospital and has been grateful for the enthusiasm and support of her manager as well as the research team.