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Mariela Petkova and Michael Atherley are undergraduate students on the BA English Language programme. In their second-year module, Professional Research Skills for Linguists (PRSL), they took part in a group project where they applied their research skills as linguists in a professional context:

The six members in our group collaborated with the NHS Moor Green Brain Injury Unit in carrying out research about how to support GP communication and with people who have aphasia.

English Language student Mariela on campus

Our employers were Louise and Nick, speech and language therapists helping adults rehabilitate from aphasia, a condition inhibiting language function. Like many of us during the pandemic, Louise and Nick had to adapt to working remotely but with the added difficulty of conducting virtual sessions accessible for people with aphasia.

Healthcare is a vitally important domain, and people with aphasia could be negatively impacted by increased use of technology in this domain for a long time to come. People with aphasia struggle to have their voice heard as it is, let alone the new situation we now have regarding use of technology. Hence the importance of raising the issue now, in primary care.” – Louise, Moor Green.

We wanted to gain first-hand perspectives from both patients and GPs to understand their needs. However, throughout this project we experienced some obstacles in getting access to these perspective. We found out that this project was more than just locating where the communication problem lies and improving it, but rather letting aphasia patients’ voices be heard. We created and distributed a questionnaire to 27 GP practices in order to hear about their experiences, but we only gained three answers. The coronavirus impacted on hearing the much needed experience of the GPs, so we had to rely only on reviewing resources and existing studies. Based on our research into these resources, we our group created a poster that GPs can use in the future to help with their interactions with aphasia patients.

Working on this project has strengthened our goal to develop careers in the field of speech and language therapy. Working with Louise and Nick gave us the opportunity to gain insight into what it is like to be a speech and language therapist and learn how therapy sessions occur from experts in the field with years of practice.

English Language student Michael on campus

Moreover, we gained essential skills such as:

Resilience - when our questionnaire didn’t get the number of responses we needed, we found an alternative way to gather information instead;

Problem solving and decision making – when we had to decide how to write the report, or how to solve internal teamwork problems;

Confidence, teamwork and leadership.

The Professional Research Skills for Linguists module was a fantastic opportunity to check if our career expectations aligned with our future aspirations. The experience has helped us gain skills that we can use in the workplace and strengthen our applications for graduate courses which are needed for a career in Speech and Language Therapy.