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Managing ongoing swallow safety through information-sharing: an ethnography of speech and language therapists and nurses at work on stroke units

Barnard, R. A. ORCID: 0000-0003-4319-9550, Jones, J. & Cruice, M. ORCID: 0000-0001-7344-2262 (2022). Managing ongoing swallow safety through information-sharing: an ethnography of speech and language therapists and nurses at work on stroke units. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 57(4), pp. 852-864. doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12725


Aims To generate new understanding for how speech and language therapists and nurses share information for ongoing management of swallow safety on stroke units.

Design: Ethnographic methodology, involving 40 weeks of fieldwork on three stroke wards in England between 2015 and 2017.

Methods: Fieldwork observation (357h) and interviews with 43 members of speech and language therapy (SLT) and nursing staff. Observational and interview data were analysed iteratively using techniques from the constant comparative method to create a thematically organised explanation.

Results: An explanation for how disciplinary differences in time and space influenced how SLT and nursing staff shared information for ongoing management of swallow safety, based around three themes: (1) SLTs and nurses were aligned in concern for swallow safety across all information sharing routes, however (2) ambiguity was introduced by the need for the information contained in swallowing recommendations to travel across time, creating dilemmas for nurses. Patients could improve or deteriorate after recommendations were made and nurses had competing demands on their time. Ambiguity had consequences for (3) critical incident reporting and relationships. SLTs experienced dilemmas over how to act when recommendations were not followed.

Conclusion: This study provides new understanding for patient safety dilemmas associated with the enactment and oversight of swallowing recommendations in context, on stroke wards. Findings can support SLTs and nurses to explore together how information for ongoing dysphagia management can be safely implemented within ward realities and kept up to date. This could include considering nursing capacity to act when SLTs are not there, mealtime staffing, and SLT seven-day working. Together they can review their understanding of risk and preferred local and formal routes for learning from it.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the terms of theCreative Commons AttributionLicense, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided theoriginal work is properly cited.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
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