Speech Pathology services in ICU: Clinician reported facilitators and barriers

Ms Lara Cardinal1, Dr Amy Freeman-Sanderson2,1, Professor Leanne Togher1

1University Of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 2University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia


While Speech Pathologists’ roles have an increasingly prominent role within intensive care units (ICU) the scope of their roles and training in this clinical area remain dependent on individual hospitals’ policies and guidelines. In the absence of a national guidelines and training, there is a need to explore clinicians’ skills, training and facilitators/barriers to their role development within ICU.


To explore facilitators and barriers to ICU Speech Pathology service and role development including training needs, ICU team environments, professional development activities, and confidence in providing services across different practice areas.

Method: All Australian adult ICU sites were contacted via telephone, one Speech Pathologist from each site was invited to participate.  The survey comprised of 31 questions including qualitative and categorical data. Qualitative responses were analysed using established thematic frameworks.

Results: 57 responses were received. Facilitator themes were: building working relationships; understanding the speech pathology role with the multidisciplinary team; physical presence in the unit; and access to resources. Barrier themes were the multidisciplinary team’s perceptions of Speech Pathology; and lack of Speech Pathology presence in ICU. Inclusion of Speech Pathology in ward rounds was reported at 32% (n = 18) and ICU specific training was provided to 42% (n = 24) of participants. Further professional development was requested by 79% (n = 45) of participants.

Conclusion: Speech Pathologists servicing ICU have varied experiences with the culture of the multidisciplinary team, inclusion in ward activities and access to professional development. The key driver to change was reported as role awareness/acceptance, indicating a need for education on the role of Speech Pathology in ICU.


Lara Cardinal is a new graduate from the University of Sydney and a certified practising speech pathologist. Her Honours project researched the Speech Pathology workforce in Intensive Care Units.

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