Working as a Speech and Language Therapist in Belfast Trust

Lesley Garrett works as a Speech and Language Therapist both at a Belfast Trust site and in the community. She explains why she loves the dynamic and challenging nature of her role.

Can you tell us how about your job and what you do from day to day?

Currently I am employed as a Band 7 Speech and Language Therapist in a split role working with adults in the community and at the Neurology Unit. My case load includes patients with an acquired or hereditary neurological condition, and my role involves assessment and management of both communication and swallowing difficulties.

How long have you been in your current role?

I have worked for the Belfast Trust for approximately five years and in my current post for three years.

What experience and education is required in order to perform this role?

To practice as a Speech and Language Therapist you will require a relevant SLT degree, registration with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and membership of the Health and Care Professions Council. Places on the degree courses can be oversubscribed so it’s important to consider preferred exam subjects and pick accordingly. There are many different areas of specialisation within speech and language therapy so it’s a good idea to think about personal interests and preferences and perhaps become involved in volunteering or work experience in a chosen area.  Once qualified, therapists are expected to continue their professional development by attending formal courses, supervision, peer support, self-study etc.

What is the biggest challenge in your role?

Working with patients who have a progressive disorder can be challenging especially as they come to terms with the reality of their diagnosis. Family members can be very distressed also and it is important to be available to offer advice and support striking the balance between empathy and clinical professionalism. There is a high demand for our service so effective and efficient time management is essential to manage caseloads and waiting lists. 

What advice would you give to others looking for a job in your field?

Communication skills are key in the Speech and Language Therapist role so it’s helpful to contemplate your own communication style and be mindful of the many ways in which we communicate. In Belfast Trust there are information sessions led by SLTs where you can get further advice on the scope of the role and how to apply for a degree place. 

What do you like best about your role and working for Belfast Trust?

I love working in this dynamic and challenging post. No two days are ever the same and in the community I get a chance to meet people in their own homes and get to know their personal circumstances, seeing the whole person not just the ‘patient’. Working in a multidisciplinary environment also provides great support from other team members and provides the opportunity to make a real difference to someone’s life.