If I could offer one unsolicited reminder to new clinicians, it would be that life truly does offer unexpected surprises. Plans change, people come and go, and your path will not be the perfectly straight line from A to B you may have envisioned early in life. If you told me at the start of my career that I would one day regularly sample pureed food AND work with adults with dysphagia, I would’ve checked the room for a hidden camera.
As a graduate student and a new clinician, I was certain that my career path would involve a daily overload of singing, squeezing the chubby cheeks of language delayed 2-year olds, and working with parents to improve their child’s language skills. I loved working with children, and I shuddered at the thought of feeding edentulous 80 and 90-year-olds thickened liquids and pureed green beans. After all, I (like many other SLPs whom I’ve met) chose to become an SLP because someone in my life needed an SLP as a child. I thought my life’s path was to work with pediatrics. Fortunately, as life would have it, I was thrown several curve balls in my personal life that led to my decision to switch settings and work with adults. I haven’t looked back since.
Since switching to treating adults and geriatrics in the skilled nursing facility (SNF) setting, I have loved every minute of patient care, including rehabilitating post-CVA patients with aphasia to functional communication, improving the swallow function of patients who are NPO to be able to eat and drink again, and managing the consistencies and environments of my dear patients with advancing dementia. I’ve experienced an equal share of both laughter and tears, successes and set-backs, and I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from professionals from other disciplines.
After several years of working in a SNF, life allowed me to cross paths with Pure-a Foods, an up and coming company that wanted to create a more flavorful and easily accessible pureed food. I thought of the patients who tried to chase me down the hallway in their wheelchairs, shaking their fists and yelling at me to change their diet consistency from pureed. I knew the opportunity was one I wanted to be apart of.
Since working with Pure-a Foods, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to be an integral component in the creation of a new pureed food, to teach others about dysphagia, and to network and share information about this new option for pureed food with colleagues, patients, and family members. Every time I meet a clinician or patient who samples a Pure-A flavor and loves it, I am so grateful to be a part of a company AND a profession that seeks to improve the lives of those with dysphagia.
To be completely cliché, in life and in your career, remember to keep an open mind and expect the unexpected. After all, I would not be a part of Pure-A Foods or treating geriatrics had I stuck to the straight A-B-C plan I thought I wanted.