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A Southern Cross University lecturer is breaking new ground in dealing with the little known condition called aphasia, or the inability to communicate with speech.

Aphasia is a neurological disorder caused by damage to the portion of the brain that is responsible for language. It commonly affects 30 percent of stroke victims.

During her ten years as a speech pathologist, SCU’s Dr Kirstine Shrubsole saw aphasia on a daily basis. She noticed great improvements in some patients while others remained stuck, some indefinitely.

‘When you work in a hospital there are guidelines that tell us what we should be doing and when, based on the research, but when I was working in the hospitals myself we often couldn’t implement them,’ said Dr Shrubsole.

‘There were so many barriers. We often didn’t have enough staff, or time, or resources. Sometimes it was skills; we didn’t have the training to deliver a certain type of therapy.’

She went on to complete a PhD, researching aphasia, and focusing particularly on the implementation of clinical guidelines and effective behaviour change techniques, in order to improve speech pathology practice and aphasia treatment within the hospital system.

Dr Kirstine Shrubsole

Passing knowledge on

Now Dr Shrubsole is sharing her knowledge with SCU students, helping them understanding the latest research and evidence about aphasia.

Sarah Eenjes, a final-year speech pathology student, recently attended an Aphasia Camp on the Gold Coast, organised by the Australian Aphasia Association, to gain first-hand experience from patients working to improve their ability to communicate.

‘It’s one of my passions, being able to help those with aphasia, as not many people know about it. The camp was an invaluable learning experience,’ said Ms Eenjes.

‘Being at Southern Cross has given me opportunities that other universities may not have provided, like the small classes and knowing your teachers by name, just that really close group of people that we’ve got and being able to share our resources between each other.’

Better care needed for stroke patients

Dr Shrubsole’s goal is to improve the care delivered to stroke patients right across Australia, so no matter which hospital they attend, they receive the same high-quality care based on the latest evidence.

She explains it’s a matter of approaching things from the top down and bottom up simultaneously.

‘All of my research is based on trying to improve how the latest evidence is translated into practice. It’s called closing the evidence/practice gap,’ said Dr Shrubsole.

You can find out more about Dr Kirstine Shrubsole’s research work here.