As a kid, I loved long drives with my mom. We’d listen to music, catch up and, my favorite part—I’d go through her purse. I’d read and then throw out old receipts, collect loose coins and throw out old Ziploc bags of Band-Aids or ibuprofen.
You can learn a lot about someone by digging through their bag.
What did I learn about my mother? She’s neurotic and quite literally prepared for anything. OK, fine, I didn’t learn that from her bag. Exploring it just confirmed what I already knew.
When I began working as a PRN (as needed) speech-language pathologist at an inpatient rehab facility, I knew I’d need to get a bag together to prepare for treatment of any patient coming my way.
I bet you’re wondering what that bag looked like and what I put in it.
I chose a travel bag with a beautiful paisley print and lots of compartments. If you need a new bag, consider a diaper bag. They contain plenty of lined compartments and are easy to clean—perhaps choose one with a padded pocket for a laptop or tablet.
A backpack, rolling bag or a folding cart might also be useful.
Post-its are essential. Thought of a question for the treating physician? Use a post-it. Need to leave a note for the primary SLP? Leave a post-it. A patient wants to leave a note in the room in case his wife comes? Hand him a post-it.
I use a dry-erase board and markers for numerous activities, including visual scanning, math, reading, writing, memory, semantic feature analysis and more! I find them particularly handy when a patient refuses to get out of bed for treatment.
I carry coins and a range of bills, up to about $20, to help with functional math and money-related tasks. You can use play money, but I find some patients struggle to generalize what they know about bills and coins to the fake cash.
That brings me to my next item—hand sanitizer—for after you’ve used the money. I make sure to clean patients’ hands before and after any task.
After spending too much time shuffling though large stacks of papers, I decided to buy an accordion file. I can organize worksheets, documentation checklists, patient information handouts and more. For frequently needed worksheets, I got them laminated and use a dry-erase marker to save paper.
Every now and then, you come across a cranky patient yelling, “I don’t need speech! I speak just fine!” In these cases, I often pull out a deck of cards and ask if they would like to learn a new card game that targets memory goals. I keep cards handy to target functional visual scanning, memory, attention, receptive and expressive language, and social skills. I purchased a few recycled Vegas casino cards at a dollar store and have yet to meet a cantankerous old man who doesn’t love gushing about his young, crazy nights on the Las Vegas Strip.
For a few bucks, you can search stock photos or take photos of popular household items, then print and laminate them. However, if you’re like me, you might find a set worth purchasing.
I don’t need a tablet, but I do enjoy having it! It’s compact, portable and full of free or inexpensive apps. I like that you can easily adjust the lighting, font size and volume for individual patients. I uploaded some of my favorite aphasia workbooks onto the device and open them in an app that allows for patients to write on them. Also, if I can access Wi-Fi, I can find sites to incorporate patient interests into treatment.
I also keep a calculator on hand to quickly calculate patient accuracy after each task. I also offer up a calculator for money- management or checkbook-register tasks, particularly if a patient says they typically use a calculator at home.
Some days, I wonder why I’m carrying a 30-pound bag of papers and pictures. Other days I wish I had Mary Poppins’ magic carpet bag to reach in for a fan or a space heater … or a fan and a space heater!
Your bag might go through a few phases and need intermittent purging or restocking. With some time, you’ll discover what you and your patients need and keep them in your bag for easy access.
Please share your favorite tips for stocking a patient/client bag in the comments section below.
Michelle B. Garmizo, MA, CCC-SLP, is a bilingual speech-language pathologist in Miami, with experience in acute care and inpatient rehabilitation settings. email@example.com