Jamie Stephen (’09) | Speech Pathology

by   |  05.02.12  |  Communication Sciences

Speech pathologist on the brain injury team, Institute for Rehabilitation and Research in Houston

When Jamie Stephen came to ACU, she knew she was interested in the medical field but was unsure which direction to take. Then she discovered speech pathology and realized she’d found a calling.

“It was a good way to be involved in the medical field, but to have lots of options as well,” she said.

Jamie currently works at the Institute for Rehabilitation and Research in Houston as a speech pathologist. She’s primarily concerned with in-patient rehabilitation, working with six or seven patients at a time. Since she’s on the brain injury team, she sees many stroke patients and patients who have sustained traumatic brain injuries.

Focus on geriatrics

“I really enjoy working with adults, especially the geriatric population,” she said.

As a therapist, Jamie sees a wide array of conditions in her patients. They can range from someone who’s lost the ability to safely eat and swallow to someone who has trouble with cognition or finding the right words to express what they’re thinking. In every case, she’s challenged to come up with a plan of care that addresses the individual needs of the patient, as well as the concerns of his/her family and loved ones.

“Sometimes patients have so many things happening that it’s hard to prioritize and pick what’s best for them,” she said. “And when you’re working with patients for an hour per day, you get so attached.”

As she helps patients re-learn motor movements, use basic phrases, or operate devices that can augment speech, Jamie works with her medical team and the patient’s family to create the best possible standard of care. Once a week, the patient’s physician, therapists and other caretakers meet to discuss the patient’s progress and work out ways to speed his/her recovery.

Team approach to healing

“We take an interdisciplinary team approach,” she said.

Although her job can be challenging, she loves the experience of watching a patient progress through treatment and see positive results.

“It’s rewarding to see them meet the goals you set for them and communicate with their families again,” she said. “We get to see families at an interesting point in the recovery process. They’re at a more stable point when they start the rehabilitation process, and they’re one of the greatest benefits we have – they make some of the best therapists.”

Jamie credits much of her team-focused approach and standard for compassionate care to the training she received at ACU. She found the professors in her department to be especially helpful when she was searching for an area in which to concentrate, though she insists that they weren’t just faculty members to her.

The ACU experience

“The professors are really involved in students’ lives,” she said. “They’re really good at getting you involved in community-wide things.”

One of those community-wide efforts was a children’s literacy program called Longhorn Literacy Night, which involved providing dinner and literacy enhancing activities for elementary students and their families who were struggling with literacy. Jamie participated in the program during her time at ACU and enjoyed the opportunity to give back to the Abilene community.

She also appreciated the efforts her department made to help students grasp a broad array of possibilities within their field.

“I love the program at ACU,” she said. “It’s really good because it exposes you to lots of different things. It really gave me opportunities to see what my area of interest was.”

The way Jamie views her field and the patients she serves each day stems from the educational and environment of faith that nurtured her at ACU. That faith experience was one of the reasons she chose ACU, she says, and it still has an impact on her today.

“It was really great to study in my field under people who shared my faith,” she said. “I think it shaped the way I think about speech pathology – as a ministry.”

Learn more about ACU’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders