Monday, 9 December 2013

BSLTRU: helping students become evidence-based speech and language therapists

Having just finished my (Vikki Greenhalgh) first year of studying postgraduate speech and language therapy at Canterbury Christchurch University in Kent, the hot topic of ‘evidence-based practice (EBP)’ is something that has been ingrained into my way of thinking. 
Vikki Greenhalgh at BSLTRU
Throughout our EBP learning about the hierarchy of research literature and how to critically appraise a publication, I and I think several other members of my cohort developed a more critical mindset and found our questions evolving from ‘What is the evidence-base?’ to ‘How does the evidence-base inform and improve practice?’.

Given the current emphasis that the RCSLT has put on EBP in speech and language therapy in order to improve outcome measures, I was interested to read in McCurtin and Roddan’s (2012) review ‘Evidence-based practice: SLTs under siege or opportunity for growth? The use and nature of research evidence in the profession’ that SLTs in practice were finding it hard to integrate EBP into their daily practice as they experienced barriers such as ‘time’ and ‘lack of skills’.

Being an SLT of the future in a time where effective outcome measures are more important than ever, I was left with more questions than answers as to how research can enable SLTs to improve their practice.

Drawing on my learning about reflective thinking I decided that I needed to take Kolb’s advice and complete my ERA (experience à reflection à action) cycle. Therefore with enthusiasm and optimism on my side, I set out to find a solution to my problem. This quest led me to organise a research placement with the Bristol Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit (BSLTRU) for the last three weeks of my first year of study. Working alongside researchers who are/were practicing SLTs would be a great place for a student like me to develop my understanding of how practice and research can compliment instead of collide.

Working alongside Yvonne Wren and the team at BSLTRU has been an inspiring experience and has helped answer many of my questions around the practical applications of EBP. I am sure that every SLT practicing today can think of a valid research question, however my experience at the BSLTRU has given me an overview of how this question develops into data collection/analysis and how the findings can be disseminated to improve practice. This placement has shown me the importance of including as much professional and public involvement in your research as possible but also the challenges of achieving this objective. In order to nurture the growth of the next generation of SLTs I think that a research placement is an invaluable experience for student SLTs to gain during their studies and really recommend that other students who are interested seek out a similar opportunity.
Along with my invaluable experience at the BSLTRU I found the book ‘Creating practice-based evidence: A guide for busy SLTs’ edited by Corinne Dobinson and Yvonne Wren, a really useful tool when thinking about how I could go about integrating research into my practice, definitely worth a read!

Lastly, if you have time here is an interesting 5 minute talk about the challenges of client-centred EBP by Kate Malcomess .


Dobinson, C. and Wren, Y. (2013) Creating Practice-based Evidence: A Guide for SLTs. Guildford: J & R Press.
Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

McCurtin, A. and Roddam, H. (2012) Review: Evidence-based practice: SLTs under siege or opportunity for growth? The use and nature of research evidence in the profession. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, Vol. 47 (1) 11-26. Available at