Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Aphasia Access Conversations

How We’re Reducing Communication Barriers

Aphasia Access Conversations brings you the latest aphasia resources, tips, and aha moments from Life Participation professionals who deliver way more than stroke and aphasia facts. Topics include aphasia group treatment ideas, communication access strategies, plus ways for growing awareness and funds for your group aphasia therapy program. This podcast is produced by Aphasia Access.

May 12, 2022

During this episode, Dr. Janet Patterson, Research Speech-Language Pathologist at the VA Northern California Healthcare System, speaks with Dr. Mary Purdy about aphasia rehabilitation, Interprofessional Practice (IPP) and Interprofessional Education (IPE). 


In today’s episode, you will:


  1. Learn how IPP and IPE are related, in concept and practice.
  2. Hear about the similarities and differences in IPP in inpatient settings and outpatient settings.
  3. Listen to ideas on delivering client-centered treatment in an atmosphere of IPP.


Interview Transcript:

Janet Patterson: Welcome to this edition of Aphasia Access Podversations, a series of conversations about community aphasia programs that follow the LPAA model. My name is Janet Patterson, and I am a Research Speech-Language Pathologist at the VA Northern California Healthcare System in Martinez, California. Today I am delighted to be speaking with my colleague and friend, Mary Purdy, about Interprofessional Education, or IPE, and Interprofessional Practice, or IPP. Dr. Purdy is Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator in the Department of Communication Disorders at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Connecticut, and a speech- language pathologist at Hartford Health Care Rehabilitation Network. Mary has been involved with educating graduate students in the principles and practices of IPE for several years and is currently Chair of Southern Connecticut State University's College of Health and Human Services IPE committee. Additionally, she actively engages in Interprofessional Practice in the outpatient setting. 

As Mary and I start this podcast, I want to give you a quick reminder that this year we are again sharing episodes that highlight at least one of the ten gap areas in aphasia care identified in the Aphasia Access White Paper authored by Dr. Nina Simmons-Mackie. For more information on this White Paper, check out Podversation Episode #62 with Dr. Liz Hoover as she describes these gap areas, or go to the Aphasia Access website. 

This episode with Dr. Purdy focuses on gap area five, attention to life participation across the continuum of care, and gap area six, training and protocols or guidelines to aid implementation of participation-oriented intervention across the continuum of care. We focus on these areas through our discussions of IPE and IPP. Two previous Aphasia Access podcasts included conversations about IPE, Episode #7 with Darla Hagge and Episode #78 with Michelle Gravier, Albert Mendoza and Jennifer Sherwood. For so many reasons, IPE and IPP are crucial in creating and sustaining high quality aphasia rehabilitation programs. I hope our conversation today adds to the growing body of knowledge in IPP and IPE. With that introduction, I would like to welcome Dr. Mary Purdy to Aphasia Access conversations. Thank you, Mary for joining me today to discuss aphasia rehabilitation, IPP and IPE. 

Mary Purdy: Well, thanks Janet. And thank you. It’s really good to be here. 

Janet: Let me just jump right in then Mary to say we've heard a lot about Interprofessional Education, or IPE, and Interprofessional Practice, or IPP. How do you define and think about these two related, but different concepts, both in general, and as they apply to aphasia rehabilitation? 

Mary: Well, in general, when we think about IPP, the whole concept of collaboration, we know, leads to improved health care outcomes, and that's what we're all after, with our people with aphasia. In terms of the education students need, to learn how to collaborate with other professionals, and this can be quite complex. First of all, they need to understand what their own roles and responsibilities are, just related to their profession. Plus, they have to learn to work as a member of a team, and not just operate on their own, solo. In order to have students become comfortable in these roles, we have to provide them with opportunities to learn, and those opportunities, I think, really need to be both didactic and interactive. 

Specifically, to aphasia rehabilitation, in addition to just general education about collaboration, students need to understand that individuals with aphasia really do have complex needs and to meet these needs, we have to focus on the patient. We hear a lot about patient-centered care, and that's really what it is that we need to be doing. So, students need to have some training in how to communicate with people with aphasia, and they need to get to the point where they can be comfortable training others to help communication. We have to help our patients identify what their goals are. 

Interprofessional collaboration and practice, and patient-centered care really is all about the patient goals. They have to be really included with the whole program. Students have to be comfortable in aiding patients in identifying their goals, and they have to understand how other professionals can help meet those goals. You know, when we work with our clients, we of course, are focused on communication, but our patients are so much more than that. We have to look at them as the entire person that they are and recognize that we as speech pathologists can't take care of all their needs by ourselves. So, we have to bring in other professionals to help the clients meet their goals. The other thing is, we know that patient's needs change, as they adjust to life with aphasia, and they move throughout the continuum of care. As those needs change, the team members may also change, so students need to recognize that collaboration and interprofessional practice is always in flux. It's an ever-changing concept, in terms of practicing interprofessional collaboration. As clinicians, we need to practice what we preach, we have to remain focused on our patient, what their needs are, what their goals are. It can be difficult at times given time constraints and other constraints within the healthcare environment, but we really do need to try to make the effort. 

Janet: Hearing you talk Mary, I'm envisioning a student, a graduate student, who is focused in trying to learn everything they can about the different aspects of communication disorders, not to mention everything about aphasia, and now we're asking them to learn more. That is, what an occupational therapist does or what a physical therapist does and how to organize that. Is that a daunting task for students? 

Mary: I think so. As I said, they're learning what they themselves have to do, you know, what do I do as a speech-language pathologist. And so, when we start throwing everything else at them, I can imagine it's very daunting for students and it's hard to try to design educational opportunities that take into consideration where the student is in their whole educational process. I think there's a timing issue of how to be introducing all of these different concepts throughout the student’s education. 

Janet: Mary, as you recall from the introduction today, the White Paper authored by Dr. Simmons-Mackie identified gap areas in aphasia rehabilitation across the continuum of care, two of which I think relate to IPE and IPP. I would like to ask you about your thoughts regarding IPE and IPP and how they intersect with the LPAA model at three times: first, during graduate education as we teach and model for students who will become clinicians; second, during aphasia treatment in inpatient medical facilities; and third in the outpatient setting, including community aphasia groups. Let's begin with the educational environment. How do you teach and model IPE for your students? Can you tell us about some examples you use and how your students respond to your IPE activities? 

Mary: First of all, in the educational environment when we're first really training the students, this is truly the IPE portion where we're preparing the students to learn the process of collaboration. Specific to aphasia, I usually start in my aphasia class. We have a couple of different case studies that we go through, that provide information to students about stroke, the professionals involved with stroke, then the person with aphasia. Through the case studies, I'm introducing them to the professions, and then to aphasia and how the professionals work with aphasia. Another thing that I do in class is, every semester students will interview a person with aphasia. They'll do a little language screen, and they'll interview a patient that comes up from our clinic. Recently with COVID, we've been doing this over Zoom, and it works fine. As part of that, they are instructed to ask the clients about their goals; what goals do they have both for clinic in terms of their communication, but also in general. Then later, we discuss what is needed to help the patient accomplish the specific goals, both within our own profession as well as outside. So, in class, there's a general introduction to IPE. 

In the clinic, we've had some fun activities, very informative from multiple perspectives. One thing that we do is we have nursing students who are enrolled in their community health class, come into the clinic to perform a health intake with our individuals with aphasia. Now prior to that, our students have given the nursing students a little bit of background on aphasia, and we have the students view a video about it. And then when the nurses come into the clinic, they work with our students there together during the interview process. The nurses go through and ask all their questions and, I shouldn't laugh, but sometimes it's amusing to see the nursing students’ reactions. They are just kind of flabbergasted in terms of, “okay, now what do I do?” For one client, the nurse was asking, the client, “Do you have a history of heart problems, cancer”, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and the client was responding “Yes” to everything. The nurse was saying “Oh, my gosh, you poor thing you've just been through so much”. I was in the observation room with the wife, who was saying he didn't have any of those problems. So, it was actually a very good learning experience for the nurse. Then our student jumped in and started using more pictures to try to help with understanding. We provided the supported communication prompts to help with that. 

We've had therapeutic recreation come into the clinic, and we've had a few trips into the community. We've gone bowling, and that was interesting. The students learned about devices that are available to individuals who have hemiparesis. There are these stands that the person puts the ball on and just kind of pushes the ball off this rolling stand and it goes down the alley. Our students learn a lot about accessibility and what can be done to help our patients get around in the community a bit more. That's a couple of examples of what we've done in the clinic. 

We also have worked with the Marriage and Family Therapy department to provide support to the spouses of the individuals with aphasia. I think that's another important aspect to make the students aware of, that aphasia doesn't affect just the person who has it. It affects everybody, and the spouses need support as well. Our students have sat in on and facilitated some of those sessions as well. 

Some other opportunities our students have had are again related to assessment. We had our students go to the nursing lab, where they were doing simulations of assessments, and our students played people with aphasia. That was a lot of fun, and I tell you, it told me a lot about how much our students really understood about aphasia; it gave me some very good feedback as well. We've had a variety of different kinds of activities to educate other professionals about aphasia, to educate our students about the other professionals. So, it's been a lot of fun. 

You asked about how the students responded to these activities, and an important component is the debriefing. After every activity, we always talk with the students about what they thought of the experience. They obviously they love the hands-on activities, they find those to be much more beneficial than the case studies and what have you. They've talked about how much they've learned about the patient; they're stunned often with the complexity of medical issues that the patients have, and it's sometimes led to new goals in our therapy sessions. We've had some goals where we would use aphasia friendly educational materials to inform the clients about their medications. We did roleplay scripts for community reentry, so that's been helpful for the students. It just increased their awareness overall. Their feedback was that it forces them to really look beyond just communication. And it also helped their interactions with the clients, kind of viewing them and accepting them as a real person, not just a client with a communication problem. 

Janet: It sounds like such a rich experience for your students, when they're hearing it - the case studies, it's one thing to see those words on the piece of paper that says the patient has this diagnosis or has had that treatment, and then to see this person talk about, or try to talk about, whatever their concerns are, or their issues. I imagine the students must just be on one hand overwhelmed with everything, all the information that's coming to them, but very grateful for this experience, the whole interprofessional education experience, 

Mary: They sometimes are overwhelmed, but I think the benefit outweighs the degree to which they're overwhelmed. 

Janet: I'm sure that you can share stories of your own, thinking back to assure them that other people experience this, and you'll get better with time, and it will feel better and more natural in these kinds of conversations the longer you go in the career in the field of speech language pathology.

Mary: I always tie in my personal experiences when I'm trying to explain one of these concepts. It does make it a bit more real to the students. 

Janet: Well, that actually leads into my next question, Mary. You are, in addition to being the university faculty member, you are also a practicing clinician, and you use IPE and IPP in your work. How do you incorporate the ideas and the principles of IPP into your clinical activities, when you're in the inpatient medical settings, we'll talk about that setting for just a few minutes, the inpatient medical setting? 

Mary: That's actually where I started my clinical career, in inpatient rehab, and it's always remained kind of dear to my heart, although it was very different back then, where patients would stay inpatient for three months. Two weeks they get now if they're lucky. In the inpatient situation it's a little bit easier to do collaboration because there usually are established team meetings. There are some requirements for accreditation related to collaboration. Though I have to say, that just having a group of individuals come together for a meeting doesn't necessarily include collaboration. I think it has to be approached very thoughtfully, in terms of what are we going to do to differentiate true interprofessional collaboration from just a multidisciplinary team? I think one of the main differences is truly staying focused on the patient and having more of a problem-based approach. We look at what are the issues with the patient and who needs to come together to address those issues. So, the collaboration is kind of built in through these regular team meetings. 

In addition to that, though, I think the inpatient setting provides some unique opportunities. I've done a lot of co-treatment with PT and with OT. Just last week I was down in our makeshift apartment, it's actually a model of an apartment that has a bedroom, kitchen, everything, and I was working with OT. The OT was trying to help the individual manage with their one hand and also be conscious of the safety issues. The inpatient setting provides the opportunity for us to do some co-treatment as well. I've worked with PTs and OTs, trying to help the patient ambulate. We work on carryover of each other's techniques, and we educate each other about our own professions. Even at that level we have new OTS coming on the scene who had never worked with a person with aphasia. So, the co-treatments allow us to provide some of that education in a very naturalistic environment, which obviously is helpful to the patient. We also work together to figure out which discipline needs to address, what aspects of a problem. If a patient is having issues with problem solving, or flexibility, speech can address that, or OT can address that. So, we kind of work out who's going to do what, in a very non territorial way, which is fun. 

One of my favorite projects that I did was a self-medication program. I work very closely with nursing to help educate the patient about their medications, what they're for, what the side effects are, what to do if there's a problem, and how to fill their med boxes. I took a lot of the information that the nurse was providing the client and incorporated that into my own therapy sessions in a much more aphasia friendly manner. It really is helpful in helping the individuals become a bit more independent. Anything that we can do to help increase their independence is so good for their psyche, for their motivation, and for their own self-worth. Not having to depend on a spouse to give them their meds is a big accomplishment. We also follow through on using techniques recommended by one profession in the other settings. So, I will make sure that I have patients positioned properly, when I'm working with them; I make sure that client has their communication book with them, or the OT would make sure the patient has the communication book when they're in the OT session. There's a lot of ongoing discussion about what we each need to be doing to help one another and help the patient. 

Janet: That actually, it's both education and its practice, isn't it, because whatever you're learning and teaching new about aphasia in your classroom is also being shared, if you will, with your colleagues at the hospital, and they're teaching you, and you're doing it within the confines of the needs of a particular patient. So, I imagine that the interprofessional practice part, the education part of that, is just always there, is ongoing, and you don't make assumptions that the OT or PT automatically understand your goals in speech, nor do you automatically understand theirs for occupational or physical therapy.

Mary: The education component really is carried on throughout, not with students, but as you said, with the other professionals. We're all always learning. I've been in this practice for more years than I care to count and I'm still learning things. That makes things fun and exciting and never boring. 

Janet: When I think back, about the importance of LPAA and the importance of patient- centered care, when I think back on some of my practice 100 years ago, I wish I would have done things differently for patients. I could have been a much more effective clinician, but I wasn't thinking in that direction at that point in time. But I am now and I'm hoping that our listeners will also realize there's a lot out there that we can learn from, and we can impart to other professions as we all work to help patients.

Mary: I cringe at some of the things that I did 30 years ago, but you live and learn. The end goal is always the same - we want to do what we can to help our patients. We want our patients to be able to lead fulfilling lives, how we get them there has changed, a little bit. 

Janet: You've talked to us now about some of the activities you use when you educate students in IPE, and then you've talked about some of the things you do in Interprofessional Practice when you're in the inpatient setting. The third setting I would like to talk to you about is community aphasia groups and the outpatient setting. You may be the only speech-language pathologist on the staff, or you may not have access to other rehabilitation professionals in the outpatient setting like you do in the inpatient setting. How do you see IPE and IPP intersecting with the LPAA model in these clinical settings, either outpatient settings or community aphasia groups? 

Mary: Personally, I don't work with community groups outside of the university and I think groups within a university are very different than groups in the community, you know, separate from an educational environment. I continue to work providing
outpatient services to single individuals with aphasia, and without a doubt, thinking about collaboration requires more effort. Most of the time, the patients have already finished their OT and PT by the time they get to the Outpatient Center, at least where I am. I don't have those professionals nearby so collaborating would be difficult. But the thing is, even though they may have been dismissed from those other therapies, that doesn't mean that the patients don't still have needs, and their needs now might be very different than when they were discharged from the therapy, three months, or six months prior. I think we need to remain patient centered and always be thinking about, “What is this person doing? How fulfilled is this person? What are their goals?” The patient has been living with aphasia for a while now and so their needs have changed. They are, in my experience, branching out a whole lot more or wanting to branch out more so we have to know what their goals are for life participation, what is it they want to accomplish? Those goals may be completely unrelated to what I, as a speech-language pathologist, will be doing. 

For example, one of my patients had always done knitting, she just loved to knit. She was lamenting that she wasn't able to knit for her new grandchild. I was asking her what was the main problem with it? Of course, she indicated her hand, she couldn't hold the knitting needles. I briefly talked with our OT in our clinic, and asked, “Would this be something that you think we should get another referral for? Is it something that you could really assist her with?” And the OT said, “Well, yeah, sure.” So, we did get a referral for her to get an OT eval, and the OT gave her a built-up knitting needle. I was familiar with them for pens, but I had never even thought of one on a needle. That enabled the patient to continue with her knitting. Granted, she was slower, and she might have missed a stitch or two, but she was so much happier that she was able to do that. And so, OT accomplished the goal of getting this patient back involved. I guess the moral of the story is, even if we're not directly working with the other professionals, they may be accessible, or we can get them re-involved, and so we need to keep an open mind about that, and not just think that, okay, they're done with PT, they're done with OT, because there definitely are things that can be done outside the realm of communication. 

Having a good understanding of what our patients’ skills are and what their challenges are, can also help us set realistic goals, help our patients set realistic goals. I remember working with a client a while ago who was living at home but needed assistance to get out of the house, to transfer into a car, and so on and so forth. I wasn't really even thinking about that, you know, the patient made it to my office, so I just kind of assumed that they could do whatever. The patient wanted to go back to going out to eat so we were working on scripts. I talked about this with the physical therapist as the patient was still receiving physical therapy. The physical therapist said to me that it's okay if she wants to work on that, but she's not going to be able to get into that restaurant, it's not accessible, physically accessible, and the patient has so much trouble getting out of her home into a car. The whole thing is very laborious and so the family doesn't really want to undertake that challenge at this point. They are willing to do it to get her to therapy, but the family isn't really ready to get her into the community yet. That just made me take a step back and think, “Well, duh! Yeah, of course!” I didn't have my goals aligned with what other professionals had for goals and what the patient had. Understanding more about our patients really can help us all, patient and professionals, align our goals, so that we can accomplish them in a more efficient manner. If a patient needs some therapy and isn't receiving it, we can always ask for referrals; they might be denied, but it doesn't mean we can't ask for them. 

Janet: What you said made me think of a couple things. Something you said earlier that aphasia doesn't just affect the person with aphasia, it affects the family. So, when you're talking about setting goals, like your restaurant example, thinking about the PT goals, the OT goals, the family goals, the patient goals - maybe the patient's goal of wanting to be able to order in a restaurant could have been redirected to learn a script in preparation, maybe, for finding a restaurant script later on, but now, at this moment in time that isn't the best direction, as you said. So, it just makes me think really that aphasia is about the family, it is about more than just the person with aphasia. 

Mary: Oh, absolutely. Patient-centered goals definitely are centered on what the patient wants, but I think have to be considered, along with what the family wants, and what's realistic. They're the ones that are existing together. They are the ones that are ultimately responsible for carrying out, or not carrying out, these different things. I think everybody needs to be on the same page.

Janet: Something else you said also made me think - the knitting needle example. In addition to achieving a goal, or to listening to the patient, you're also modeling for the patient how to ask for something, or how to think about another referral, because a new set of skills has developed, or a new set of problems has developed, now that you're further along in the aphasia journey. 

Mary: I think it's a part of our phase of therapy in general, I think increasing self- advocacy is a critical component, making them aware of what their rights are, and what they can be asking for and demanding. Then giving them the tools to do that is a major component of our therapy, 

Janet: That is exactly what LPAA is, asking what it is the patient wants to do, looking around the environment, and asking how we can help the individual achieve those goals, and the family achieve the goals as well. So, your comments and ideas about IPE and IPP, I think are pretty exciting, Mary, I hear the excitement in your voice as you're talking. But I also think they're crucial to the way that we should be thinking about how to deliver rehabilitation services in the coming years and months ahead of us. 

As we draw this Podversation to a close, what are the pearls of wisdom or lessons learned, that you would like to share with our listeners? And in particular, what practice suggestions might you offer to clinicians, as they try to incorporate principles of IPE and IPP into their own practices? 

Mary: Well, I've certainly learned a lot. I've learned my lessons as I've moved through this journey. I do have fun with it, so it's always worth it. In terms of education, for educators and IPE, I think I would recommend starting small. Sometimes my excitement about IPE has led me to be a bit over ambitious, and that can get frustrating for me, it can get frustrating for my colleagues, and for my students. So, starting small I think, is a good place to start. We might set expectations that are not necessarily realistic for our particular environment or for a particular academic department. I think it's important to know that we can be effective with small changes, small changes in our curriculum, like incorporating the activities into the aphasia class. Another thing that has been helpful is finding a group of like-minded colleagues, because a lot of times many of these projects are carried out on our own time in the educational environment, so you have to be with others who are as excited about the project as you are to really make it work. I'd suggest getting involved with schoolwide Interprofessional Education efforts if they exist. If they don't exist, jump in and try to create them so that they can exist. 

For clinicians, I think we have to practice what we preach - more follow through on the different principles that we're instilling in our students. I think as clinicians we have to stay patient-centered and think beyond just communication. Similar to what I mentioned for educators, start small. A meaningful change in the life of a person with aphasia doesn't necessarily require great amounts of time and effort. If we just think small, think of individual goals, little changes can have a big impact. Then finally, I would say, get to know your patient and be their advocate. 

Janet: Those are good lessons for all of us and not always easy to do, but certainly worth the doing, I think. 

This is Janet Patterson, and I'm speaking from the VA in Northern California, and along with Aphasia Access, I would like to thank my guest, Mary Purdy, for sharing her knowledge and experiences with us, as she continues her exciting and important work in IPE and IPP. 

You can find references and links in the Show Notes from today's podcast interview with Mary Purdy at Aphasia Access under the resource tab on the homepage. On behalf of Aphasia Access, we thank you for listening to this episode of The Aphasia Access Conversations Podcast. For more information on Aphasia Access, and to access our growing library of materials, please go to If you have an idea for a future podcast topic, please email us at Thank you again for your ongoing support of Aphasia Access. 


Purdy, M. H., Hindenlang, J.& Warner, H. L. (2017). "Interprofessional Education: Take the leap." Presentation to the AMERICAN speech-Language-Hearing Association, November 2017. 

Gurevich, N., Osmelak, D.R. & Farris, C. (2020). Interprofessional education between speech pathology and nursing programs: A collaborative e-platform curriculum approach. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 34(4), 572-575.