ORLANDO, Fla. — A new course is underway at the University of Central Florida, designed to prepare health care professionals for new challenges to come in the field because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What You Need To Know

  • Speech pathologists are learning how to treat patients

  • Patients who were on ventilators may have strained vocal cords

  • Get more coronavirus coverage here

Speech-language pathologists are learning how to treat patients who have overcome the virus. Instructors say this is the first-of-its-kind course offered across the country during this challenging time in health care.

Creators of the graduate course said data shows speech pathology intervention is needed right now. It is 100 percent online, but it's also hands-on. Students get at-home kits to practice skills such as how to treat people who have been on ventilators for COVID-19 and might have strained their vocal cords and have swallowing issues.

It is also helping students understand how to better treat patients while both wearing masks, when seeing facial expressions and hearing is a challenge.

"The information is ever-changing, and this course provides that up to the minute information about COVID, post-COVID symptoms, what patients are experiencing in the immediate time, and potentially, what some of the longterm symptoms maybe," said Bari Hoffman Ruddy, an associate dean of clinical affairs and creator of the course.

It is also helping students who were not able to intern because of the pandemic.

"This particular iteration of this course also is meeting the need of some of our current students who because of the pandemic, were not able to participate in an internship experience, where they would be walking through the halls of the hospitals," Ruddy said.

Practicing clinicians and other students at other universities can access this information online as students in the course​ as well.

Professor Vicki Lewis helped design the online course.

"Post-intubation, (there's) potential injury from having an inter-tracheal tube in for a prolonged period of time," Lewis said.

Students are also learning how to better treat patients while both wearing masks.

"When you can only see from here up, sometimes it's difficult, so you kind of have to ask pointed questions, like are you understanding?" Lewis said.

Fifth-semester graduate student Erika Daly is prepping for the challenges ahead through the course.

"We've been able to further our critical decision making skills, in the absence of being in in-person placements at this time," Daly said.

Daly wants to work with adults when she graduates in December, a population that will now include coronavirus patients.

"I do feel positive moving forward as a clinician, and I feel a lot of it is due to having this course under my belt because it is one-of-a-kind," she said.

The "Post COVID-19 Clinical Practice in Medical Speech-Language Pathology" course started in Summer B session and wraps up this week. Instructors hope the next version of this course can be more interdisciplinary involving other health care fields at the university.

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