Better Speech and Hearing Month!

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month! In honor of that, this month we want to recognize our interprofessional collaboration with our own speech-language pathologist, Teri Burns. Let’s get to know her!

Teri, put bluntly, what do you do?

I am a Speech-Language Pathologist (sometimes called a SLP or a Speech Pathologist to shorten up an otherwise lengthy title).  A medical SLP works in health care and diagnoses and treats a wide range of speech, language, cognitive, voice and swallowing disorders.  SLPs also often work with individuals who suffer from chronic diseases or who have experienced a trauma affecting communication or swallowing.  

That sounds really interesting! How long have you been practicing as a speech-language pathologist?

I’ve been a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist for 30 years!  I worked 29 years for a large hospital system in Kansas City. For several years I evaluated and treated both inpatients and outpatients with more diagnoses and communication problems than I could possibly name.  In more recent years, I primarily evaluated and treated outpatients, most of which were patients with voice or swallowing problems. Last summer, I joined ENT Associates, and it’s been a great, new professional adventure for me!

Now tell us a little about you. Where are you from?  Where did you do your training?

I grew up in Omaha...a proud Nebraska native!  I moved to Chicago to attend Northwestern University where I completed  both my bachelor’s degree (Communication Sciences & Disorders) and master’s degree (Speech-Language Pathology).  After graduate school, I moved to Kansas City to begin my career.

At what office do you work?

I work full time at the Lakewood office.

With what type of patients do you work?

At ENT Associates of Greater Kansas City, I am a voice and swallowing specialist.   I evaluate patients with a variety of voice problems (i.e. hoarse or weak voice) due to overuse, benign lesions (nodules or polyps) or throat cancer.  Evaluation includes a procedure called videostroboscopy where a scope is either passed through the mouth or nose to visualize the vocal cords. It provides a magnified view of the throat and simulates slow-motion vibration of the vocal cords.  This allows me to determine what is causing the voice problem and then to make a plan on how to work with the patient to improve their voice.

I evaluate swallowing problems (dysphagia) that affect many people because of neurological problems, anatomical changes in their mouth or throat (often due to cancer) or respiratory issues.  Evaluation includes a procedure called FEES (fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing). In FEES, a scope is passed through the nose and advanced into position so the throat can be viewed while the patient is swallowing.  The patient is given different items to eat and drink and the scope (with a camera attached) records the swallows. The exam is able to identify if food/liquid goes into the airway (aspiration) instead of the esophagus, if food/liquid is remaining in the throat, what kinds of foods/liquids are safest to consume and if certain positions or strategies make swallowing easier or safer.  If the patient has a swallowing problem, I am able to work with them using exercises, electrical stimulation and other strategies in an effort to minimize or eliminate the swallowing problem.

How long do you typically work with a patient?

It varies depending on the patient’s problem.  Typically, if a patient has a voice problem, I may see them for 6-8 treatment sessions over a period of 2-3 months. If a patient has a swallowing problem, I may see them more frequently and for a longer period depending on the type and severity of the dysphagia.

What do you like about Kansas City?

Since I was born and raised in the Midwest, Kansas City suits me well.  I like the four seasons, although I tolerate winter less every year! I like that there are professional sports teams here...I’ve been a long time Royals season ticket holder.  I enjoy that there are ample live events like concerts and stage theatre that come to town. I think it’s a good “foodie” town with lots of great dining. And I also like KC’s location because you can fly nearly anywhere in the US in less than 4 hours!

What are some of your hobbies?

I enjoy traveling, going to baseball games, attending live theatre, home DIY/decorating, baking and listening to podcasts.

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