Student power: Utilising student resourced services to meet the growing demand for outpatient speech pathology services in an acute hospital setting

Miss Lucy Lyons1, Mrs Jackie  Moon1

1Mater Health, Brisbane, Australia

A key focus for Mater Speech Pathology team has been to grow our capacity to deliver complex, high acuity outpatient services in the hospital setting. This is in response to increased waiting lists in core, high acuity speech pathology outpatient clinics because of a growing number of referrals for specialist areas of practice (e.g. vocal cord dysfunction, Modified Barium Swallow studies). This growth resulted in increasing delays for patients accessing speech pathology services beyond recommended/evidence based timeframes.

A competing priority for the Mater Speech Pathology service was to continue to care for underserviced groups with chronic conditions in response to community needs and in alignment with Mater’s tradition and values. These patient cohorts include those with voice and fluency disorders. Public hospital services for these groups are increasingly limited. Until 2018, Mater had a part time speech pathologist (0.6FTE) servicing these populations.

In light of increased volume of outpatient referrals, competing service priorities, and fixed staffing levels, Mater Speech Pathology remodelled outpatient service pathways and workforce. The 0.6FTE of clinician resources previously used to service people with voice and fluency disorders were reallocated to higher acuity, more complex outpatient services (e.g. instrumental swallowing assessment). An immediate reduction in outpatient waiting lists for these complex conditions was seen. All patients referred for high acuity outpatient services are now seen within recommended timeframes.

This reallocation of staffing resources created a significant gap in services available for people with voice and fluency disorders. This caused considerable dissatisfaction amongst patients, advocacy groups and referrers. In response to this feedback and hospital service benchmarking, Mater approached Australian Catholic University (ACU). ACU identified that these areas of practice were priorities for student education. ACU agreed to fund a low acuity speech pathology student resourced outpatient clinic using a 0.2FTE clinical educator to supervise 4 students simultaneously.

The trial results of the clinic are favourable. Waiting lists for these services have significantly reduced and patient feedback regarding the student delivered services has been positive. Students and ACU also positively evaluated the clinic and their learning outcomes. The Mater/ACU student clinic is now running continuously and permanently.


Lucy is the Speech Pathology Lead and Allied Health Lead for Neurosciences at Mater Health. She has a passion for embedding new models of care to optimise patient outcomes and service efficiency. Lucy has also held numerous Clinical Education Support Officer roles across Queensland and has witnessed the growth and value of student resourced clinical services.

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2009, Canberra (8th NAHC)

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2013, Brisbane (10th NAHC)

2015, Melbourne (11th NAHC)

2017, Sydney (12th NAHC)

2019, Brisbane (13th NAHC)

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