Enhancing speech-language pathology head and neck cancer service provision in rural Australia: Using a plan, do, study, act approach

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Foley, Jasmine
Ward, Elizabeth C
Burns, Clare L
Nund, Rebecca L
Wishart, Laurelie R
Graham, Nicky
Patterson, Corey
Ashley, Amy
Fink, Julie
Tiavaasue, Emily
Comben, Wendy
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Purpose People with head and neck cancer (HNC) require ongoing speech-language pathology (SLP) services into the post-acute recovery phase of care. However, there are recognised service inequities/barriers for people from rural areas who are unable to access SLP services locally, necessitating travel to metropolitan centres. This study implemented strategies to assist rural speech-language pathologists to work to full scope of practice and support post-acute rehabilitation services for people with HNC.

Method The study involved five SLP departments within a rural health referral network (one tertiary cancer centre, four rural sites). It involved a Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) method, across two six month cycles, to achieve implementation of a model to support local SLP delivery of HNC care. Data collected included service activity, consumer feedback from people accessing local care, staff perceptions of the model and changes to local SLP service capabilities.

Result Staff identified four objectives for change across the two PDSA cycles including resource development, upskilling/training and improving communication, and handover processes. In cycle 1, multiple resources were developed such as an eLearning program for training and skill development. In cycle 2, a pilot trial of a shared-care model was implemented, which successfully supported a transfer of care to local services for eight people with HNC. The majority of consumers accessing HNC care locally were satisfied with the service and would recommend future people with HNC receive similar care.

Conclusion The PDSA process supported development and implementation of a model enabling local speech-language pathologists to offer post-acute care for people with HNC. This model helps rural people with HNC to access care closer to home by supporting rural clinicians to work to full scope of practice.

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International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
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Allied health and rehabilitation science
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Life Sciences & Biomedicine
Audiology & Speech-Language Pathology
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Foley, J; Ward, EC; Burns, CL; Nund, RL; Wishart, LR; Graham, N; Patterson, C; Ashley, A; Fink, J; Tiavaasue, E; Comben, W, Enhancing speech-language pathology head and neck cancer service provision in rural Australia: Using a plan, do, study, act approach, International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 2023, 25 (2), pp. 292-305