Jessica Gormley

Jessica GormleyCommunication Sciences and Disorders (Pennsylvania State University)

Background: I completed my undergraduate and masters degree at SUNY Geneseo in the area of speech-language pathology. Prior to starting the doctoral program at Penn State, I worked as a speech-language pathologist in a variety of medical settings in Pennsylvania and Nebraska with four my my six years working in the inpatient rehabilitation setting. During my clinical work, I developed an interest in the implementation of AAC services within the inpatient setting to optimize outcomes of children with complex medical needs. When working at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska I was able to learn more about the research process as a clinical researcher working under the direction of Dr. Susan Fager.

Current Interests: I am interested in the implementation of AAC within inpatient rehabilitation settings, especially when working with children and adolescents with complex medical and communication needs. For my first research project at Penn State, I am running a series of online focus groups with SLPs who work within this setting to better understand the experiences, perceptions, successes, and barriers to providing AAC services within inpatient rehab. In future projects, I aim to improve patient-provider communication among health care professionals and individuals with complex medical and communication needs through use of specialized partner training techniques and high-tech AAC systems (e.g., mobile applications and alternative access techniques).

Dissertation Chair: Dr. Janice Light

Sample Presentation/Publication and Rationale: Fager, S., Gormley, J., & Beukelman, D. (2016, November). Visual/cognitive processing demands of keyboard layouts for individuals with & without traumatic brain injury (TBI). Poster presented at the Annual Conference of the America Speech-Language Hearing Association, Philadelphia, PA. (handout as a pdf)

This topic is closely aligned to my research interest of use of AAC strategies with individuals with complex medical and communication needs. During this project, data collection was completed when individuals were receiving inpatient rehabilitation services in the initial months following a traumatic brain injury. It is essential for researchers and clinicians to investigate the cognitive and visual demands of AAC systems to select systems that minimize demands and optimize communication outcomes of individuals with TBI.

Additional Information: Jessica Gormley ( from AAC.PSU.EDU)

Think Tank Presentation Topic and Discussion Starters

I am interested in developing and evaluating instructional strategies to train health care workers (e.g., speech-language pathologists (SLPs), nurses, physical therapists, etc.) to become effective communication partners when interacting with children with complex communication needs (CCN) in the inpatient rehabilitation setting. As a starting point to learn about the current experiences and perceptions of SLPs, I recently conducted two online focus groups comprised of SLPs who work in inpatient rehabilitation settings. I am currently analyzing the data generated from these groups and early results provide evidence that many SLPs who work in inpatient rehab have a desire to learn more about AAC strategies and systems, however factors such as time, tools, and training materials are not always readily available to learn and practice the skills necessary for these professionals to effectively and confidently implement AAC strategies. Furthermore, many of the currently available tools and trainings are developed for practitioners in educational or more acute medical settings and may not meet the unique needs of inpatient rehab.

In future projects, my aim is to provide a platform of training materials specifically designed to meet the demands and needs of an inpatient rehabilitation setting. My hope is for SLPs and other rehabilitation professionals to learn about effective communication strategies and, ideally, practice these newly learned skills to later translate to clinical interactions with individuals with CCN.

My questions are:

  • How can we develop trainings that address the unique needs and roles of professionals within inpatient rehabilitation setting?
  • How can we provide opportunities for health care providers to learn and practice communication strategies in a manner that can closely approximate the clinical environment?
  • How can we measure the quality of patient-provider communication between rehab professionals and children with complex communication needs in the inpatient setting to evaluate the success of these trainings in subsequent projects?


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