Medical Speech Pathology

Curiosity, Dialogue, and Knowledge

Nancy Swigert, M.A., CCC-SLP, BRS-S


Nancy Swigert earned her master’s degree in 1978 from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She is a Board Recognized Specialist in Swallowing. She is the Director of Speech-Language Pathology and Respiratory Care at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, KY, a 385-bed acute care facility, accredited by Joint Commission as a Gold Plus Performance Stroke Center. Additionally, she was the Coordinator for Special Interest Division 13, which encompasses swallowing and swallowing disorders. The division has over 5400 affiliates. She also was the chair of the Healthcare Economics Committee, and was a president of the ASHA Foundation and she was ASHA President in 1998. She will serve as chair of the Specialty Board for Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders 2012-2014. Her areas of interest are swallowing in adults and pediatrics, motor speech, and coding and reimbursement. She also serves as a member of the adjunct faculty for the University of Kentucky and Nova Southeastern University.

1. What got you interested in the medical field?

I have always enjoyed the diagnostic nature of our field. When I was in graduate school there were no courses in dysphagia, so when I started attending courses by Jeri Logemann in the late 80s, I found that my interests in diagnosis and dysphagia blended seamlessly and the best place to apply those two interests was in a medical setting.

2. What was or is your most interesting project and why?

The most interesting project was starting the Speech-Language Pathology Department at this hospital. Prior to my practice taking the contract, the hospital had consultative services only. Building the comprehensive department we have today from the ground up was challenging and rewarding.

3. What area(s) in medical speech pathology need the most research now?

Well, of course I’ll say dysphagia since that’s my area of interest. We need more information on when and why certain patients get pneumonia, what the effects are of keeping patients on the least restrictive diet and of course, on effective treatment strategies so that no patient has to remain NPO long-term.

4. What is the most important advice you could give to a new clinician starting in the medical field?

Find a good mentor and ask lots of questions.

5. Who did you look up to the most as you were beginning your career?

I’ve worked with many amazing speech-language pathologists over the years. It would be hard to point to one who had the most influence. I found it exciting to learn from many outstanding leaders.

6. Do you believe SLPs should move to the Clinical Doctorate for entry level into the medical field?

No. I believe that changing to a doctorate level would result in a shortage of SLPs in the medical field and that the extra costs incurred by individuals seeking that degree would never be regained in salary. I believe a strong graduate program with partnerships with area health care facilities for externships can prepare a student well to enter the medical field.

7. How do you balance being an administrator and a clinician?

Well, over the last few years, the scale has tipped more towards administration as I’ve picked up added responsibilities at the hospital (directing not only Speech-Language Pathology buy also Respiratory Care). However, I try to keep one foot in the clinical world by supervising Clinical Fellows and consulting with staff on challenging cases. I love it when the ask me to discuss an interesting case.

8. What is the most exciting advancement in Speech Pathology that you have seen in the past few years?

The development of specialty recognition programs. Though I said previously that a masters’ degree program can prepare an SLP to practice in the medical field, there needs to be a way for consumers to find clinicians with added expertise. In the medical field, we only have one specialty so far: Board Recognized Specialist in Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders. Earning this designation lets consumers, physicians and other professionals know that you’re an expert. I hope to see specialties in other medically related areas of SLP (e.g. voice, aphasia).

9. What is a good book or research article about medical speech pathology that you would recommend?

Medical Speech-Language Pathology by Johnson and Jacobson.

2 comments on “Nancy Swigert, M.A., CCC-SLP, BRS-S

  1. Becky Mitchum
    January 31, 2016

    Nancy, thank you so much for your presentation at Harding University Friday. You gave me quite a few useful strategies to begin applying right away on Monday. I’m the second-career SLP with whom you took the time to visit over lunch regarding board certification and mentoring. Thank you again so much! I did not feel Harding did a good job with some of the logistics because of key persons getting ill, beyond thei university’s control, but you made it all worth it!

  2. Becky Close
    November 14, 2019

    I am a retired reading teacher. I am now volunteering to tutor. I pulled my copy of your book, THE SOURCE FOR READING FLUENCY. I have lent my copy to university students. It is now missing page 248, Reading Fluency Chart,appendix 9L.
    Could you take a picture of this page and send it to me? Or text 513-300-3299

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